"Prayer is like kissing. When you were thirteen years old, or however old you were, and you had a crush on somebody in your class and the two of you would take walks together and then hold hands and then finally you found the courage to kiss. Neither one of you knew how to kiss, now, did you? But somehow you muddled through.
"For you see, prayer is like kissing.
"Everyone kisses a little differently. Some people are prim and proper with their kisses, others sultry and sexy. Some kisses are quiet and introspective, others are vibrant and passionate. And yes, there is even such a thing as an angry kiss or a sad kiss or an I'm-in-the-middle-of-a-meltdown kiss.
"But every kiss is communication. And nobody ever gave us a book with a title like Kissing for Dummies. I don't think such a book could be written anyways. I know teenagers can get nervous about kissing — teenagers can get nervous about everything — but the best antidote to feeling nervous about kissing is, well, to go ahead and kiss the person you want to kiss (and who wants to kiss you).
"When we were kids facing our first kiss, we got nervous over things like 'What if I have bad breath?' 'What if he or she has bad breath?' 'What if it turns out to be gross or creepy?' 'What do I do with my nose?' and so forth. But that's where this analogy breaks down because when it comes to talking about how prayer is like kissing, we're talking about God here. Prayer is a kiss from God. When we pray, even if we're just reciting printed words in a book, we are showing up to accept the kiss of God's love. And if it makes us nervous, well, the best way to get over that is to just do it.
"Come to think of it, if it makes us bored or angry or distracted or whatever, once again the best antidote to all those unprayerful feelings is to just get on with the praying.
"Prayer is like kissing. We kiss because we love — or at the very least because we like — the person we're kissing. A kiss is always a sign of desire, whether it's sexual desire, loving desire, or even just the desire to foster or maintain a close friendship. On a human level this is messy and imperfect: nobody wants a kiss from somebody they don't like. But on the level of spirituality, we are already promised that God simply loves us. I would even go so far as to say that God adores us. In traditional religious language, adoration is something reserved for God alone: 'I adore God; I cherish my wife.' It makes a kind of poetic sense to consider that one of the reasons we ought to adore God alone is simply because of how beautifully God adores us. The word adoration literally means 'to speak to,' so when we adore God and God adores us, we speak words of love to one another. And that is the heart of prayer.
"So why pray every day — especially if it's prayer out of a book? You're not telling God anything God doesn't already know (well, frankly, that's true even when you're praying spontaneously the words out of your own heart). But when you offer those words to God, God speaks to you through them. It's two-way communication."