When you pray, it’s supposed to be an intimate, personal conversation with God. You’re supposed to really connect directly, passionately, intimately with God.

Jesus described this Himself in Matthew 6:6, when he taught: “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.”

So one of the ways I try to live out this intimacy is to make sure I’m always present in my prayer. Always intentional and conscious about what I’m doing. I would never try to have the same conversation with my loved ones – it’s lazy and boring – so why would I do it with God?

The classic example is grace. How many of you have heard this prayer recently – or said it yourself? #DearGodthankyouforthefoodinJesusnameweprayamen

One day I was about to spit out that prayer to get right to the food when something inside me stirred. I felt bad. I felt guilty.

Something inside was telling me: Hey. Some respect please. You’re saying grace. What do you think grace is? Just some password to access the food? Like the keycode to your iPhone?

No, it’s grace. It’s called grace to remind us of the daily grace we are shown. Everything we have, the food we eat, the air we breathe, is given by grace. Don’t take it for granted.

And besides – do you know who you’re talking to?

So since that day I’ve always made sure every single prayer I pray is different. Whether by myself behind closed doors, or in my family, or in some larger group setting. I do this to force myself to be present when I pray. Conscious. Intentional. To remind myself, hey, this is God I’m speaking to. My Father. My Creator. The Almighty God!

I think He deserves all of my attention, all of my heart, all of my mind, all of the time.

And one of the things I’ve found is that when you make a real, intentional effort to approach God, it actually puts you in a very vulnerable place. Because suddenly, when you take away all the stock/template prayers, and you’re forced to pour out whatever is on your heart and mind, your prayer vocabulary gets laid bare.

When you make a real, intentional effort to approach God, it puts you in a very vulnerable place.

It really shows what you think of God, how you view Him. What you call Him.

Most of us have some pet names or terms of endearments for those close to us. Your siblings, your best friend, your partner, your spouse. For example, my wife never calls me Edric, and I never call her by her name. We have pet names for each other which I cannot reproduce here (blush). My older daughter wants me to call her Princess. My younger son wants me to call him a giraffe.

I do, because I love him. (Dear Giraffe, if you’re reading this: Go to bed!)

And it should be the same with God. We all have a go-to, default name that we call Him when we start our prayers. A term of endearment.

Probably the most common way people start their prayer is Dear God. There’s been songs named Dear God, movies named Dear God, a Dear God meme.

Maybe you say Lord God, Lord Jesus, Abba Father, Dear Daddy.

My prayer will almost always start with “Dear Heavenly Father”. There’s a historical reason for it and a personal one. Historically, it’s how my dad started his family prayers.

But personally, I love how the name both represents God at His highest – up in the heavenlies – and at His closest – my Father.

So that’s mine: Dear Heavenly Father. What’s yours? How do you typically start your prayer? And what does it say about who God is to you?