Being raised a Baptist I learned that prayer is talking to God in your own words. We did not memorize or recite previously written prayers because that is not how a child communicates with his Father. But Zach changed my thinking on this.
A couple of years ago we got a communication device for Zach. It was basically a computer screen with pictured buttons on it. When Zach would push the cookie button the computerized voice would say, “I want a cookie.” My wife, Jan, set up the system with buttons for all of Zach’s favorite things, from Oreo cookies to going on the swing. Still he was not quick to take to this new method. He was quite content with his photos that he would hand us to request an item and saw no need to upgrade the system.
Then we had our breakthrough at the zoo. As we were walking toward the entrance gates Zach pushed a button and the computerized voice said, “I want to ride the train.”
That’s when my attitude toward written prayers changed. Even though my boy did not vocalize these words, even though my wife programmed the phrase into the machine, even though the voice was a recording of some child actor, this sentence expressed Zach’s desire.
There’s nothing patently more spiritual about spontaneous prayer off the top of one’s head as opposed to written prayers. If God didn’t want to hear any written prayers then why did he give us a book of the Bible filled with them (the Psalms)? God looks at the heart. “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16, NIV)
What was important was that “I want to ride the train” expressed Zach’s request. And his father heard him and gave him what he asked.