To my mind prayer is a way of lifting up our troubles and despairs and needs and intentions and asking God to "take the strain" if you will.
Am I off beam here, or is this your understanding as well? What has been your experience of how to pray?
Yes, I think that is a good way of putting it. I've read that prayer is not so much us asking God for things as it is us getting our hearts more in line with what He wills. A few thoughts...
I came to Christ through Protestant Bible studies/prayer groups. Certain people there seemed to teach/model a kind of prayer where it seemed like they believed that you had to cover every single thing, cover every base. I mean long lists of every possible thing that you didn't want to happen had to be prayed against, and every specific thing you did want had to be mentioned. This was quite anxiety-producing for me. I suspect it was bad theology, too.
Now I more often simply pray, "Lord, please bless this person" or "Lord, please touch this person/situation that Your will may be done." In the beginning, I sometimes felt like I was being.... mmmm.... lazy or remiss doing it that way, if that makes sense, but now I believe that it's okay.
I once did the St. Andrew Christmas Novena for something I really wanted to happen for another person. And it didn't happen. So that kind of put me off novenas. Stupid, I know, but I'm just telling you the truth here.
I pray a Rosary daily (every once in a while I switch to the Divine Mercy Chaplet). I have various experiences with that, somedays I get a sort of altered consciousness similar to TM, other times my thoughts are very rambunctious, and I end up praying, "Jesus, forgive me, this is really bothering me, please help me with this." Often I substitute the name of a person or "me" for "us sinners" and I'm mostly praying about ultimate salvation. I sometimes think God doesn't really care about anything else, and that actually He doesn't care about removing pain in our lives anyway. Oh, I have recently started praying for a good wife for our youngest. That to me is an eternal sort of thing.