What is Prayer?
Prayer. Does just reading that word make you feel at least a little bit guilty?
Talking about your prayer life often makes you feel scrutinized or nervous. It’s the spiritual equivalent of talking about your diet or exercise—you know you could do better. You’re easily embarrassed to talk about it or apologetic for your lack of consistency. Some don’t know how to pray or don’t pray enough; others only pray at the last minute, not unlike only dialing the police in the case of an emergency. We can’t remember ever meeting anyone who thought they prayed often enough, earnestly enough, or faithfully enough.
Making matters worse, maybe you don’t understand prayer, no one’s ever told you how to pray, or like the kid in school who never really learned how to read, others just assume you know how to pray when you, in fact, do not and are a bit embarrassed to admit it.
Prayer is not something you have to do. Prayer is something that you get to do! God invites us to pray by promising in Jeremiah 29:12, “…call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.”
In its most general sense, prayer simply means communicating with God. This can be done audibly as God hears our words, or silently as God knows our thoughts. Prayer is the primary way we engage in relationship with God, and just as communication is key to interpersonal relationships, it is vital to our relationship with God. That’s what prayer is: having a conversation with God.
Moreover, because communication is designed to run two ways, prayer can include both speaking to God and hearing from God.
As the Father’s child, your conversations God with can be done anywhere and in a variety of ways, whether in a traditional posture of bent knees, bowed head, and clasped hands or in more natural ways, as when you’re driving the car, mowing the yard, or shopping for groceries. You can journal your prayers or pray through the writing of songs or poetry. You can shout your prayers, or you can maintain a receptive silence, listening for the still, small voice of God. You can even use art and creativity as a way to pray.
No matter how or when you pray, the goal is always the same, to build your loving child-parent relationship with God. This concept has made more and more sense to me (Mark) as Grace and I parent our kids. One thing has remained constant from the time that our children were little to the present day when I now look up at Ashley’s three brothers who have outgrown me: I did not much care what we did so long as they knew I loved them and we were building our relationship. When the boys were young, this meant a lot of wrestling, an infinite number of hours playing whiffle ball, and me frequently playing Goliath as they pretended to end my life in tribute to David. When the two girls were young, this meant playing board games, having countless tea parties, and more than a few expensive daddy dates.
So long as they knew I loved them, we were together, and we were building our relationship, my joy came in seeing their joy. I wanted to be in their world, enjoying their company and capturing their heart. I not only loved our kids, but I also liked them—and still do. God the Father is like that with you, His child, but He’s infinitely better in a way that only a perfect Dad could be.
1. Do you have a favorite way to pray (e.g. silently, out loud, alone, in a group, journaling, singing, etc.?)
2. How would you explain your prayer life in the past and present?
3. What changes would you like to make in your prayer life in the future?