Comparison is one of the easiest ways to short circuit your prayer life. “I don’t pray/can’t pray like (insert name of prayer person you respect/admire here).”
For what it’s worth, they might not pray like “them” either. When you hear someone praying out loud–no matter how good the intentions of the person praying–they are likely influenced in some way by the fact other people are in the room listening and praying along.
I pray out loud routinely in groups of people, sometimes on mic in front of hundreds. I ask the Holy Spirit in advance for words to pray, and I try to sincerely focus on God and not be distracted by the fact that other people are listening and praying along.
But I guarantee there’s a difference between the prayers I pray when others are listening, and the ones I pray alone–especially in a crisis. There shouldn’t be any disparity (and that’s my fault), but in all honesty there is.
My “home alone prayers”–particularly when I’m under pressure–can be a lot more gritty, raw, random, and selfish. And yet they are often more heartfelt because God knows they are entirely real. The Psalms (a collection of 150 songs/poems in the Bible; originally used to worship God in Jewish temples) give us a template for honest, raw prayer. Nearly a third of them are loaded with this kind of imagery:
7 “Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?” (Ps 77:7-9)
“We are objects of contempt to our neighbors,
of scorn and derision to those around us.
5 How long, Lord? Will you be angry forever?
How long will your jealousy burn like fire?” (Ps 79:4-5)
If you skim through the Psalms, you find this sort of emotional honesty everywhere .
God didn’t condemn it; He rather included it in the Bible, in the very songbook of the Scriptures.
I doubt God wants us pretending we are someone else. He wants to interact with us. He made us the way we are. He cares about us the way we are. Why would He want us to act like another person? He already knows what we are thinking and feeling, and values the conversation. Because you are involved. His followers are His children, and parents love to spend time with their children.
That doesn’t mean that God won’t change you as you grow spiritually. It doesn’t mean God won’t modify the way you honestly communicate with him as time goes on. But it does mean you can be free to be who you are.