First of all, I am honored to be part of this blog, thank you Gwen for the invitation. I say a virtual hello to my fellow contributors.
Now, let me make things complicated for you... I can say that I started praying (at least) three times in my life, and that each instance evolved from the previous experience. The three types of prayer I would like to share about are Technical Prayer, Intellectual Prayer, and Emotional Prayer.
Technical Prayer is when I read the words printed in my prayer book, or recite the blessings that I memorized. I don't understand what I'm saying, and I don't even have a purpose to my prayer. I just say it. I say it because I was told to. I say it because my parents say it. I say it because I want to eat, and I don't put food in my mouth until I pray. That is what I call Technical Prayer. As unspiritual as it sounds, it serves a very important purpose. The purpose is humility and surrender. It's not about me. It can't be about me, because I don't understand and because I don't know. As childish as it sounds, is as pure as it sounds. Our great sages, who achieved the highest levels of prayer, wished they can revert back to pray like a child. I have been trained to do so since my youngest age. I said blessings and prayers before I knew how to talk...
Then I grew up. Technical Prayer was not sufficient any more, I had to upgrade. I upgraded to Intellectual Prayer. I was 13 years old, and I just started learning Jewish Mysticism, also known as Chassidus. I bought a special prayer book, with translation, and annotations. I started to study the meaning of prayer and the intricacies of its order. Intellectually, I started to understand what I was saying, and why I was saying it. When I prayed I paid more attention to the words that came out of my mouth. I made sure that they matched the thoughts in my head. Prayer now has meaning.
Again, that is not enough. The intellectual meaning of prayer, is a great tool of spiritual growth, but as far as a relationship with G-d, it is similar to what someone else with comparable intellectual capacities can achieve. Where is my personal connection? That is where I need Emotional Prayer. When I start to pray emotionally, the words that I say and their meaning take a back seat to what I feel. I use the written words in my book to express the emotions etched in my heart. I read with my lips, and I cry from my soul. I find the part in me that I'm willing to give to G-d today, and I ask G-d to accept from me. I invite G-d to be part of who I am, I ask him to help me be all I can be.
Praying emotionally evolved from many important events in my life. One of them is the discovery of the Twelve Steps, and the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. Prayer in the program is always a matter of life and death. It doesn't get any more personal than that. It doesn't get more emotional than that.