… OK, unacceptable is a slight exaggeration. Maybe more along the lines of “imperfect” prayer. I think most prayer is probably acceptable, except the smiting ones.
Infamous for having never finished a novena, we can now add composer of truly awful prayers to the résumé. The official Church prayers are beautiful and full of sound theology. Mine, not so much. Take, for example, the prayer I typically say at my desk every morning. “Lord, I hate my job. Just get me through the day.”
Perhaps I should say, “Lord, just get me through the day without taking my job for granted.” Or maybe, “Lord, help me keep my mind focused, my eyes sharp, and my hands busy.” I’m sure the Benedictines have some prayer for working since they are all ora et labora and stuff. Maybe I could throw a nod to St. Jerome in there. “Lord, help me have patience with my co-workers today. Just for today. We can tackle tomorrow when it gets here. St. Jerome, patron saint of grumpy people, pray for me.”
When I was a Pentecostal and just learning how to pray the only guidance I received was to pray earnestly. Extemporaneous prayer was encouraged over rote prayer. You got extra points for ‘tongues’. This was especially hard since I was not in the habit of talking to God. Remember I was raised a godless heathen. The sweet Southern ladies in my prayer guild never got what the problem was; “Just talk to God, Sug-ah, like you would a friend. Bless your heart”, completely overlooking the fact that I don’t make friends easily and that I was dubious about making the omnipotent Creator of the Cosmos something as common and terrestrial as my “friend”.
When I discovered Catholic prayers, like the rosary, I was instantly relieved. FYI, do NOT bring a rosary to a Pentecostal prayer meeting. If you do, expect a healin’ and to be vigorously prayed over.
Man, those Catholic prayers were something else. I couldn’t get enough of them. The burden of trying to think of something remotely decent to say was lifted. Be careful though. Catholics prayers need the warning label, “may cause conversion”.
Fast forward to now; seven years after my reception into the Church. All those prayers I loved as a Pentecostal… yeah, I can’t remember them without looking at something. I still have to sneak a copy of the act of contrition into the confessional with me and I say that prayer every month, at least. Yes, I sin. A lot.
I used to carry little prayer books with me in my purse for reference since it’s a good idea to pray without ceasing, not just before meals and going to bed. Especially if you are prone to fits of cynicism and sarcasm as I am. I would print out novenas and prayers and shove them in those books. Eventually I looked like a bag lady. Little scraps of paper followed me like a cloud of dirt around Pig Pen.
In hindsight, I was hiding from having any type of intimacy during prayer. Not to say that rote prayers cannot be intimate or they prevent you from having meaningful spontaneous conversations with Our Lord and the Saints. Rote prayers are fantastic! There are some days when I’m too physically, emotionally, or spiritually tired to strike up a conversation and it’s those beautiful rote prayers that get me through the act of prayer. But I digress…
Where was I. Oh. So one dark day I found myself staring into the abyss of self pity. Wah. Wah. Woe is me. And I prayed a prayer you’ll likely never find in any devotional book… “Damn it, Lord. Why in the hell do things have to be so flippin’ hard?! Can you please cut me some damn slack?” I may of may not have used stronger language. I don’t remember exactly. The only thing I do recall about that moment was being shocked at myself and bracing for the lightening bolt. Instead what happened was the exact opposite of smiting. I felt relief. Then comfort.
What’s my point? I guess my point is that no prayer is unacceptable to the Lord. Also, prayer is a form of two communication. It’s also OK if your prayer isn’t perfect. Just pray. Always pray.
As long as you do that, however imperfectly, you should be alright.