I was a small child when my Grandmother explained God to me.
As humans, we owed God. Bigtime!
He had given us EVERYTHING.
We could thank God by putting our hands together and saying a "Prayer."
Somehow, He could hear what we were saying!
I asked how that was possible and my Grandmother explained.
"Children have a guardian angel who listens and take our prayers to God."
On the wall in our house was this rather ubiquitous illustration of an angel watching
over two small children as they cross over a bridge.
Additionally, there were spontaneous prayers (ad lib) as well as memorized prayers (Our Father) and pious recitation prayers (23rd Psalm) which would convince God that we were truly conscious of His magnificence.
I definitely had a lot of questions for my Grandmother!
She had been reared in a Convent by nuns and constantly disciplined by recitation of hundreds of prayers.
I found that interesting, to say the least!
"What did you do wrong?"
"I was late to Mass . . . or I didn't clean my room. . . or I fell asleep in Catechism class."
For those horrendous crimes against the Almighty, the punishment was--oddly enough--reciting Hail Mary or Our Father prayers over and over and over and over.
She could not actually explain the logic of all this to me and I could see she was troubled by my questions.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of death. Amen.
Nobody in my family attended any church. . . ever when I was growing up.
I made the mistake of going only once. I hated it. (Vacation Bible School.)
My Grandmother would watch Catholic programs and read her Bible (with Jesus' words in red) and my mother would read aloud from the Book of Revelation (the horror. . .the horror!) and my Grandfather was trying to find the "True" religion for himself but never succeeded. (He read books--dozens of them--about religion, meditation, Yoga, sects, denominations, etc.)
As a boy growing up, I talked to God all the time when I was alone. I didn't ask for anything for myself. I'd ask on behalf of my aging Great Grandmother when she was feeling poorly.
"God, please help my Groogie (childhood name for my great granny) stop hurting. She's having trouble sleeping. . . "
These were feckless one-sided conversations, of course, but they made me feel like I was doing something positive on behalf of others. Well, I wasn't. I just felt like I was.
Then, I met the kid who would become my best friend and he was a Jehovah's Witness. He was relentless about evangelizing me.
Long story short: it worked.
Now, instead of praying to 'god' I prayed to JEHOVAH god.
But, I never ever prayed to Jesus. Not even once.
I'm 69 years old and I still have never once offered a prayer to Jesus Christ.
From the time I was a child, I never thought of Jesus as the same as God. I thought of Jesus as the Son of God and that seemed awfully different.
My Grandmother had apparently slept through the Catechism lesson on Jesus. . . or something. I had reverence for Him--but--I didn't love him.
I learned to love Jehovah God--but the old boy let me down when I was serving time in prison and He strung me out and abandoned me.
So, I stopped "feeling" love--but I continued praying until the day I was disfellowshipped.
After that I still prayed--but. . . felt more and more distance and isolation.
Finally, one night before I fell asleep, as I was lying in bed. . . I tried to start my perfunctory prayer and I stopped cold.
"Heavenly Father Jehovah, I approach your throne of undeserved kindness to ask---"
I just stopped and listened to the silence of my empty bedroom, the sound of cicadas in the trees outside and the whoosh of traffic on the freeway or the rumble of freight trains a quarter mile away.
I had an Epiphany.
All this time I thought I was talking to God, Jehovah. I wasn't and I hadn't been talking TO anybody but myself. I was talking to myself!
I said it out loud: "I'm talking to myself."
I kept repeating that and it felt absolutely true.
I realized gradually that I now had the freedom to not kiss God's ass any longer.
I don't pretend I'm "doing" something for others by praying.
What is prayer?
Prayer is pretending to do something when, in fact, you're not doing a damned thing but talk to yourself."
Naturally, your mileage may vary.