Our Lord Jesus Christ taught regarding prayer:
“And when you pray, … do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:5-8)
St. John Climacus (d. 649AD) says:
“When you are praying, don’t rack your brains to find words. On many occasions the simple, monotonous stammering of children has satisfied their Father who is in heaven.
Don’t bother to be loquacious lest the mind is bewildered in the search for words. The tax-collector gained the Lord’s forgiveness with a single sentence, and a single word charged with faith was the salvation of the robber.
Loquacity in prayer often fills the head with foolish fancies and provokes distractions. Brevity on the other hand—sometimes only one word is enough – in general favours recollection.”
(in DRINKING FROM THE HIDDEN FOUNTAIN, p 366-367)
When we understand our life as prayer we realize prayer doesn’t require words. We can call to mind the wondrous proclamation of Psalms 19:
The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
The entire cosmos is proclaiming the glory of God without using any verbiage: its very existence proclaims the glory of the Holy Trinity. We can join in this eternal praise by remembering God continually and recognizing we always stand in His presence. And we are reminded of this in the Akathist: “Glory to God for All Things.”
“What sort of praise can I give you? I have never heard the song of the cherubim, a joy reserved for the spirits above. But I know the praises that nature sings to you.
In winter, I have beheld how silently in the moonlight the whole earth offers you prayer, clad in its white mantle of snow, sparkling like diamonds.
I have seen how the rising sun rejoices in you, how the song of the birds is a chorus of praise to you. I have heard the mysterious murmurings of the forests about you, and the winds singing your praise as they stir the waters. I have understood how the choirs of stars proclaim your glory as they move forever in the depths of infinite space. What is my poor worship? All nature obeys you, I do not. Yet while I live, I see your love, I long to thank you, pray to you, and call upon your name…” (Prayer Book – In Accordance with the Tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Kindle Loc. 2705-10)
St. John of Kronstadt (d. 1908) writes:
“When praying, keep to the rule that it is better to say five words from the depth of your heart than ten thousand words with your tongue only. When you observe that your heart is cold and prays unwillingly, stop praying and warm your heart by vividly representing to yourself either your own wickedness, your spiritual poverty, misery, and blindness, or the great benefits which God bestows every moment upon you and all mankind, especially upon Christians, and then pray slowly and fervently. If you have not time to say all the prayers, it does not matter, and you will receive incomparably greater benefit from praying fervently and not hurriedly than if you had said all your prayers hurriedly and without feeling: ‘I had rather speak five words with understanding.. than ten thousand words in a tongue.’” (in TREASURY OF RUSSIAN SPIRITUALITY, p 360)
St. Luke in his Gospel tells us that Jesus in fact taught a short prayer to His Twelve Disciples:
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread; and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive every one who is indebted to us; and lead us not into temptation.” (Luke 11:1-4)
Next: For What Should We Pray?