A little while ago, before you moved away, you had a very close friend. You spoke almost every day, and sometimes you finished each other’s thoughts. Often, there wasn’t even a need to say anything. You related to each other on a feeling level. If anything bothered you, you reached out. But time has passed, and your conversations are far fewer. You don't share as much and so the details of daily life don't seem as relevant. You pause before calling. You second guess yourself. When you do speak, the conversations are polite, but not as rich as when you spoke every day. How is that so? Wouldn’t you have even more to talk about now? But it doesn’t work like that. The more distance there is between times of connection, the more distant you feel.
The same is true of your relationship with God.
It is difficult to muster up the emotional content you need to develop a relationship when you connect only a few times a year.
Prayer is about relationship.
That’s what God wants. A relationship.
How do you start a relationship?
This will sound obvious, sorry.
You begin a relationship by relating.
Start talking. Introduce yourself. If even for a few minutes. Pick a private space, perhaps one you will return to often. It might be inspirational to you, or its best feature is that the space offers you absolute privacy.
You can dress up the space with candles, drapery, or anything else that might put you in a different frame of mind, but honestly, you can have a conversation in your car.
What you're looking for is integrity in developing a meaningful conversation.
You will need to get rid of the transactional notion of prayer: "I praise you a bit, make you feel good, then I can ask you for things."
What you are going for is a relationship that is based on sharing and soul.
This is not a unique concept. Originating in Hasidic practice, the term for this is hitbodedut (secluding yourself somewhere and pouring out your innermost being to HaShem).
It was a practice encouraged in addition to the times of fixed prayer, to add an extra dimension of meaning to your tefillot.
But sometimes it might need to work the other way around.
Even if you don't have a fixed practice of prayer, striving for a more intimate relationship might need to come first.
Give it a try and please let me know how it goes firstname.lastname@example.org