Several years ago, in my meanderings through spiritual literature, I ran across the saying "A short prayer pierceth heaven." It kind of caught my attention, because sometimes I had a attitude of "If a little prayer is good, then a whole lot is better" -- which isn't necessarily the case. Thinking about it, mini-prayers are probably the most natural way to pray, which we do without thinking about it. If we hear of a friend of relative in the hospital we'll say -- either out loud or to ourselves -- "Oh, God, let them be all right." I don't know about other mothers, but a short one-sentence prayer asking God to look after one or the other of my children bubbles up naturally when circumstances warrent.
I've never been a big user of the Baha'i prayer book. I always say the obligatory prayers, and I have a few short, memorized favorites. The written prayers are beautiful and inspiring -- and I preferred them to the kind of extemporaneous prayer I grew up with, when I was in a group. A single person praying for a group always felt wrong to me, but Baha'i prayers belong to all of us. On my own, however, it was often difficult for me to find a prayer that says what I really want to say. And what I want to say is usually pretty simple and direct. Almost always, before I go to work, I say "Oh, God! Make me a good teacher today. Let me give the children what they need." Then, I'll add a couple of names of God, just like you find at the end of Baha'i written prayers.
That's not entirely a selfless prayer, by the way -- obviously, if I do well in my job it benefits me as well as the children I teach.
Lately, I've been thinking a lot about ways to develop compassion within myself -- a virtue that all of us could pay a bit more attention to. And there isn't a written prayer that specifically addresses that, so I just say "Oh God! Let me show compassion to everyone who crosses my path." It's simple, to the point, and what more do I need to say?
Maybe that's why such prayers pierce heaven -- they focus on what really matters.