Dua is an essential part of deen. It is mentioned in a hadith that "Dua is the essence of worship" [Bukhari]. Every form of worship is a form of dua, be it prayers, reciting Quran, or dhikr. It is to beseech Allah, and reach out to Him. It is one of the easiest forms of ibadah, considering the fact that there are no prerequisites for asking from Allah - you don't need to be in a state of wudhu, you don't have to be in a specific place or position, and you don't have to speak in Arabic.
In the etiquettes of making dua, however, it is preferred that we first make some duas mentioned in the Quran and/or hadith in Arabic, then move on to our own language. It is also important that we first make dua for our deen and then the duniya. Also, we should ask for ourselves first then move on to making dua for others. We should try to begin our duas with the praise of Allah, then recite the durood shareef (salutations for the Prophet [SAW]), and also end our dua with durood shareef, because it is more acceptable to Allah (SWT) this way as we don't forget the Prophet (SAW) while making dua for ourselves.
Sometimes when making dua some of us might be a bit lost for words, not knowing what to ask for. In Surah Al Fatiha we are taught how to make dua - firstly, by praising Allah (SWT) and mentioning His blessings, then asking for guidance to the straight path and His pleasure, and seeking protection from His displeasure and Hellfire.
Below I've made a compilation of a possible way of making dua just to get an idea. This is by no means the only way. But when we get together in a gathering with Muslim brothers and sisters, it is a good idea to sit together and make dua after some Islamic talk. The Prophet (SAW) has told us to "Convey (the message) from me, even if it is a verse" [Sahih Bukhari]. The talk should ideally be followed by a dua. This writing is just a way to give an idea of how one can make such a dua in a gathering. May we learn how to ask from Allah with sincerity and may He grant our prayers.
To begin with, I would like to narrate a hadith in which the power of crying while making dua is portrayed, "There are seven whom Allah will shade in His Shade on the Day when there is no shade except His Shade: a just ruler; a youth who grew up in the worship of Allah, the Mighty and Majestic; a man whose heart is attached to the mosques; two men who love each other for Allah's sake, meeting for that and parting upon that; a man who is called by a woman of beauty and position (for illegal intercourse), but be says: 'I fear Allah', a man who gives in charity and hides it, such that his left hand does not know what his right hand gives in charity; and a man who remembered Allah in private and so his eyes shed tears.'" It is best to get as emotionally involved into our duas as we can. With that in mind, we can start our dua.
Start with a short Hamd: subHaana Rabbi al-A`laa al-Wahhaab
"Glory be to my Lord, the Most High, the Bestower"
Durood Shareef: Allahumma Salli `alaa MuHammadin wa `alaa aali MuHammadin kamaa Sallaita `alaa Ibraheema wa `alaa aali Ibraheema innaka Hameedun Majeed. Allahumma baarik `alaa MuHammadin wa `alaa aali MuHammadin kamaa baarakta `alaa Ibraheema wa `alaa aali Ibraheema innaka Hameedun Majeed.
"O Allah, let Your Blessings come upon Muhammad and the family of Muhammad, as you have blessed Ibrahim and his family. Truly, You are Praiseworthy and Glorious. O Allah, bless Muhammad and the family of Muhammad, as you have blessed Ibrahim and his family. Truly, You are Praiseworthy and Glorious".
Recite Surah Fatiha
Recite a dua for both deen and duniya: Rabbanaa aatinaa fee ad-dunya Hasanatan wa fee al-aakhirati Hasanatan wa qina `adhaab an-naar
Our Lord! Grant us good in this world and good in the hereafter, and save us from the chastisement of the fire [2:201]
Continue on with dua in your own language, starting with deeni things
(Start off by praising Allah and mentioning as many blessings as you can that He has bestowed upon you. This varies from person to person. This includes family, friends, health, wealth and countless other things)
Ya Allah, You gave us Islam
Yet we wronged ourselves
We are distracted from You. We're in the trap of duniya and nafs
We ask that You send Your mercy and forgiveness upon us.
Forgive us for being lazy and breaking commands and thinking we could live without You.
Forgive us for our hypocrisy, the gaze and ears we misuse, forgive us for saying things without thinking of the consequences
We are the weakest of your servants
You Yourself have stated in the Quran " khuliqa al-insaanu Da`eefa"- that You have created us weak.
Ya Allah, Your Mercy encompasses all that exists
Wipe our sins, whether we did them knowingly or unknowingly,whether they were big or small
Guide us, give us hidayah to the straight path, ya Allah
We failed to love you as You deserve to be loved
Yet, we love You and the Rasul, Ya Allah give us Your love.
We repent for loving anything unlawful in this world
Save us from the calamities, `azaab and trials of this world and the difficulties therein
Bestow upon us a gaze of Your mercy
Ya Allah You know how to bestow blessings on us, but we don't know how to ask.
Give us what is best for us.
Ignite our hearts with love for You and passion for You. And love for Rasul Allah (SAW)
Let us be inclined to You more than we're inclined to anything else
Unlock all of the lock in our hearts
Let us live and die in Your love
Then, move on to dunyawi things:
Ya Allah, we ask for ease in this world.
Ya Allah, we ask for barakah (blessings) in our knowledge, in our actions, in our health, in our rizq (sustenance), in our work, and in our decisions.
Make every step of ours filled with Your blessings
Ya Allah, remove and keep away from us any worries and sadnesses
If anyone is worried due to domestic issues, free them of their worries
If anyone is worried due to their work, free them of their worries
And if anyone is worried due to financial issues, free them of their worries
Heal the ill from their illnesses, give them complete shifa ya Allah, and free them of their worries.
Ya Allah, make children a coolness for their parents' eyes, and make spouses a coolness for their spouse's eyes.
And for those who are looking to get married, grant them a righteous spouse who will accompany them in this world and the next
And those wanting to have children, grant them pious and righteous children.
Ya Allah, brighten the future of the children here. Make them an example for our Ummah.
Ya Allah, save our Ummah. Save those of our brothers and sisters suffering in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the rest of world due to violence. Bring peace to these countries. Ya Allah, it is narrated in a hadith that "Believers are like a single person; if his eye is in pain his whole body pains, and if his head is in pain his whole body pains" (Muslim). Ya Allah, give us the tawfiq to realize this and feel mercy in our hearts for others in our Ummah, and help us do something for them. It is a difficult time that Muslims are going through in this day and age, ya Allah. Provide us with Your help in these circumstances. Let us pass through any time of difficulty with patience and with our imaan intact.
We are nothing but a droplet in the ocean of Your creations, yet we ask for so many blessings from You. We are not deserving of them because of all our wrongdoings, but Ya Allah, we turn to You because we have no one else to turn to.
Ya Allah, include in this dua all of our loved ones, and those who have asked us to make dua for them. And forgive those of our loved ones who have passed away, and grant us and them Jannat ul Firdous.
O Most Compassionate, have compassion on our weakness
O Forgiver, forgive our sins
O Concealer, conceal our faults
O Gentle One, be gentle with us
O Bestower of honor, bestow honor on our Ummah
O Granter of prayers, answer our prayers
Recite Rabbana taqabbal minna innaka anta Samee ul A'leem
"Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: For Thou art the All-Hearing, the All-knowing" [2:127]
End with reciting durood shareef again
May Allah (SWT) give us the tawfiq to call unto Him, both in times of ease and difficulty.
Note: Although this writing used a variety of sources including books, lectures and websites, it is mainly comprised of Mufti Kamaluddin Ahmed's general lectures, which can be found at www.islamicspirituality.org