Prayer is by far one of the most corrupted and misconstrued topics about which Jesus taught. I can guarantee you that whenever most 'Christians' today 'pray' it is in ways entirely different (and in many cases incompatible) with the way Jesus taught. Just like with any form of communication, not doing it right results in consequences, be they immediate or eventual. Hopefully this article can clear up the confusion and send you on the right path to understanding how to talk with God like you would your dad.
First, let's go through how we talk with other people. When you say something to a parent after 15 seconds of loud flattery and praise for things that a parent should do anyway, what does that make the parent think of? Usually, it means you want something despite not deserving it, or in some cases, you're trying to look better than your siblings by being 'nice' to your parents. But both of these explanations, when applied to prayer, show signs of spiritual starvation and loneliness. Just how important to you is your message to God if you scream it out before dozens of people? Does it show you have nothing of importance to say at the moment, but want God's undivided attention simply because it feels nice to have people look up to you? Of course it does.
Jesus grew up in a time when people made a show out of doing things that God commanded them to do out of love for others, not themselves. That's why he told us exactly how to pray, with the exact things to keep in mind, and the exact order of topics to talk to God about. This prayer that he taught us is commonly known as the Lord's Prayer. But this prayer was never meant to be an exact word-for-word recitation that we so commonly see today. Rather, it was meant to serve as a template for how we should talk to God, with the order of things said purposefully and with a unique idea to be kept in mind.
In the Lutheran school I grew up in, we always said the Pledge of Allegiance to the Cross and then to the United States. Then we would say the Lord's Prayer, archaic English and all. But it's not like that was weird at all to us; in fact, when I first started thinking outside the Satanically-approved system's box and using a different wording of the prayer (it was still wrong, but a good start), some of the kids would laugh and say that I was saying a different prayer. Before meals, we would say one of two prayers:'Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed' or 'Bless us, O LORD, and these, thy gift, which we are about to receive, from thy bounty through Christ our Lord.'
It became such as though we could say them without thinking (older folks would make it sound nicer by saying 'know it by heart') (as Jesus warned against in Matthew 6:7). At church, we would say the same Confessional and Absolving Prayers, the same Creeds (Apostles', Nicene, Athanasian [once]). And this is not unique to Lutheranism. This concept of vain repititions was there in the Latin Rite, the Eastern Rite, the Worldwide Anglican Communion, Armstrongism, Calvinism and every single 'Christian' denomination and creed out there. But, like with everything, we have left out the all-important Cornerstone, the missing piece of the puzzle: Jesus and his teachings (Luke 10:17).
The Lord's Prayer starts with these words, that everyone knows in one form or another: 'our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.' This draws a distinction between God's nature: perfection, and humanity's current nature: sin and rebellion. Next, 'your kingdom come, your will be done, in the earth as in heaven;' here God's will is placed above our own, with his kingdom coming at his own pace, his will being done however he wants to, and it happening when and to whom he pleases. The next phrase is commongly said, but never truly understood: 'give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.'
Here we place our faith, our loyalty, our love in God, and only God. He alone created the universe, and he alone can provide us with whatever we need. God also has no reason to love you and be merciful if you haven't been loving and merciful yourself. 'Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one' is the second-to-last petition in the prayer, where it is admitted that there will be trials ahead, but none that you cannot bear (as Paul wisely said in 1 Crinthians 10:13); this petition also admits that there will be adversaries to the faith, be they human or supernatural. But we have to remember that we're not sent to wage war against fellow people, but to love them (Mark 12:31); as Paul wrote 'for we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places.'
But why should we pray? I mean, Jesus himself said that God already knows what you need before you ask him, because he knows we're human and what we're going through (Matthew 6:8). But to say that prayer is just to ask for material needs not only puts prayer in a box, but downplays the things you can ask God for. In fact, you don't pray to just ask God for anything; Jesus listed many things we can and are supposed to pray for. The original wording that many people say today (1611 KJV) was just a 1600s translation of the revisions of the Greek manuscripts of the lost Aramaic gospels, which are just written versions of compiled oral teaching. Nonetheless, if Jesus spoke English (and if English existed at the time) he would have said something similar to the KJV's rendering.
But the Lord's Prayer goes through a list of topics that we should talk to God about every time you pray. Not as a vain repitition, but as a way of thanking God for the wonderful gift of prayer. If you haven't read the three paragraphs before this, I'll just list them now:
1. God is holy, and we are not, which makes this gift of prayer all the more wonderful.
2. God's will takes precedence before ours or anything else; he is in control, and knows what he's doing.
3. God will take good care of you; once again, he knows what he's doing. All you have to do is believe.
4. God wants you to forgive others, just as he has forgiven you. Mercy upon mercy.
5. God loves you, and wants you to prevail over every trial that comes your way.
6. God will keep you from the danger of all enemies, human or supernatural. He is your sword and your shield.
So long as we keep all of these things in order and in mind as we pray (which isn't that hard, actually), all of these things will be given to you. Are you struggling with sin? God will send you his Spirit if you pray about it. Is a family member dying, and you need God's help in your struggling faith? The Spirit can give you strength (he's called the Comforter and Helper for a reason). Are you struggling with the faith in God necessary for your obedience to Jesus? The Spirit can help you with that. Jesus and the Father have sent the Spirit to be an active force in our lives; prayer invites the Spirit to help you, for Jesus to teach you, for the Father to protect you. All of these beings are one in purpose and will: God's. They all want you to succeed as their disciple and be rewarded in the end.
If you struggle with what is being taught in this article, please pray that God will affirm it. There is no greater gift than getting a second chance at a healthy relationship with God; let's make the most of it. Please read what Jesus taught in the Gospels, because they will continue to teach you as God sends you revelations, songs, and teachings to better serve his Church.