My prayer usually started with "My loving father in heaven" for a long time. Eventually I got bored with that salutation, so I tried few others such as "My precious Father", "Our loving gracious Father in heaven" or simply "Lord Jesus". I was taught that quoting Scriptures while praying is very effective. In other words, we might get more action from God if we claim things which he had promised in the Scriptures but have forgotten to give to us.
Every time, during the family prayer in the evening, I wanted to make sure my kids followed the Christian discipline of sitting in full attention with their eyes closed. I was proud of being a perfect Christian Dad, making sure even our 2 year old followed my strict prayer-time discipline.
Depending on who is present, most of my public prayers were directed to them, kind of using the prayer time to preach to them or to show off my religiosity. After all, that’s the only time they are forced to be silent and listen to me. When my parents (who are not protestant Christians) are present, I threaten them through my prayer about the countless punishments God is going to send on them if they don't accept my belief system. My conscious effort there was to prove them wrong and prove me right.
Depending on whom I am praying with, my prayer changed. I pray the most hypocritical prayer if there are unbelievers around. In the midst of super hyper believers, I pray as if I am also super hyper like them. You know, praying for the souls perishing all over the world? I knew how to add a touch of unbearable pain to the tone of my prayer to make it more dramatic.
Do you want to add more excitement and power to your prayer? Add more loud "Hallelujahs".
In short, my public prayer was a show and my private prayer was mostly a laundry list of things I thought I couldn't live without.
Grace destroyed all this drama and made it unbelievably simple. I can't believe I did all that for so many years. I feel embarrassed. Now when I pray, I hardly know that I am praying. It is like talking to a real person. It's a joyful occasion of tremendous freedom, peace and love. I don't mind talking silly things to Him. Now I don't necessarily want anyone around when I pray because I know that my prayer might sound very silly and child-like; mostly do not make any sense to the people who don't know where I am coming from.
And I think that's ok.