Prayer may take the form of praising God or asking for blessings, but the essential motive, I believe, is to move from a more self-enclosed world into the abyss of divine freedom. The divine is unbounded, unlimited, using a symbol employed by various ancient thinkers from Greece through India to China. Contact with the Unlimited may be disturbing, even frightening, but it is also liberating, moving one beyond one’s limits, especially from the confines of the self-contained world.
In this basic conception of prayer, one would probably not ask, “What should I pray for?,” or “To whom am I praying?” One is simply opening up to reality in its creative, life-engendering source. A word or name may be useful to focus attention or to remind myself of ultimate goodness, but a name or word may not be necessary. What matters is a strong, conscious, and deliberate desire to be awake, to tune in.
Although one can pray anywhere, at any time, a set time of quiet and alertness is highly recommended. Posture: sitting relaxed but alert, with head up, feet resting on the floor (or with legs up if necessary for circulation). Seeing: eyes preferably closed, mind not looking at any thing, real or imagined. Listening: not attending to sounds heard through the ears, nor to one’s thoughts, but to silence. Breathing: calm and steady, perhaps mindful of air passing through nostrils for a minute or so for calming. Awake, not drowsy. As for length of time, I recommend beginning with 15 minute sessions or so, and gradually increasing the time to about half an hour daily.
Given our Catholic roots, a certain kind of brief preparation for quiet sitting in prayer may be prudent. After making the sign of the cross, I think that reciting the Our Father or another favorite prayer, and perhaps reading some Scripture for 5 minutes or so, may serve to remind one of the goodness of the God to whom we turn in quiet prayer. But this preparation should be very brief, and not become an excuse to avoid sitting quietly in God’s presence.