I grew up thinking that the only prayers I was supposed to say were ones I'd memorized as a child. Now I'm afraid to pray in my own words, for fear I'll say something wrong and God will be offended. Am I right to feel this way?
No, you aren’t right to feel this way—because God delights in the simple, heartfelt prayers of His people. Just as parents delight in their child’s chatter, so God delights in our “chatter” with Him.
There’s nothing wrong with memorized prayers, of course—as long as they are based on what the Bible says, and as long as we pay attention to what we’re saying. Every week Christians in many churches recite together the so-called “Lord’s Prayer” from memory (you can find it in Matthew 6:9-13). Jesus, however, warned us against empty, memorized prayers that have lost their meaning. He said, “When you pray, do not keep on babbling” (Matthew 6:7).
God loves us, and He wants us to bring every concern we have to Him in prayer. You can’t offend Him by saying something wrong; He loves you, and He welcomes your simplest prayer! One reason Jesus Christ died for us is so we could be cleansed of our sins and approach God in prayer. The Bible says, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
If you have never done so, let your first prayer be a prayer of faith, confessing your sins to God and asking Jesus Christ to come into your life and save you. Then make prayer a part of your life every day. As Jesus said, we “should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1).