It’s really helpful to have a word of truth about what prayer really is. This is a place we are gathering these truths and insights
First Word – Prayer is…
If you want to know what prayer is, start praying. This thing called prayer, more than anything you learn by doing. And what you are doing when you pray is talking to the God of the universe who also happens to love you deeply and more than you can imagine.
So with that said, we still find it helpful in our praying to get an insight about what prayer is. This is an entry that is going to be refreshed, revisited, guest-posted–in short, it’s not going away. And you are invited to add to the conversation through your comments.
Let me start things off with a thought or two. Contrary to popular belief, prayer is not primarily about God answering our requests. Prayer is answering God. God has spoken already, and when we pray we are answering God from our side of the conversation. He has been waiting for our response.
Sometimes we ask in prayer for something we really want, and if we don’t see the answer quickly, we get impatient or conclude that God hasn’t answered, won’t answer or whatever. Here’s the truth. God started this conversation, He spoke long ago and He spoke just now. Are you listening? Have you answered Him quickly? Let this soak in: God has spoken. How have you answered?
Prayer is for us to…
- Prayer is for us to commune with God, to really enjoy His presence.
- Prayer is for relief from pain, to get through a rough and sleepless night when the pain is searing. For the sick, prayer is for healing.
- Prayer is for us to calm ourselves when tempers flare and I’m impatient and angry. I grab a prayer javelin and hurl it up to heaven and ask God “Take control of me and rein in my temper!”
- Prayer is for us to gain courage to go out in the dark, to go where it is dark, to help us to face our fears.
- Prayer is for us to humble ourselves to ask for help and it is for us to find boldness to ask for what we truly need even if we are afraid of being turned down.
Prayer is a cry for help
The cries go up to God. “Help, Lord!” “Heal, restore complete health!” “Please take away the pain!”
It’s clear that we need help. When I ask if it is okay if I pray for the patient, there is no resistance at all, just a welcome relief. “Yes, please pray for me!” is what the silent eyes say.
And I learn again what prayer is and what it is for. It is a time to draw close to God, to ask God to come near and to make things better, to heal, relieve pain, to restore and forgive and put things right.
Prayer is a journey
I’m walking a path… just as you are. We are all on a journey. The best way to make this journey is in conversation with God, praying our way through each day.
In the middle of the road of my life
I awoke in a dark wood
where the true way was wholly lost
La Comedia Divina, Dante Alighieri
That’s how Dante begins the Divine Comedy, an epic poem written hundreds of years ago in the early 1300’s. It’s really about the soul’s journey to God, and notice how it starts right in the middle of things, aware of being on a journey and at the same time lost.
What a realization, to be aware that you are in the middle of a journey and also lost. What is the instinctive thing to do when you are lost? Call out for help!
Prayer often starts as a cry for help. We know we need help, so we call and hope someone is listening.
That is not all there is to prayer, though. Just as our life is a journey with uphill stretches and declines, some days obscured and foggy, other days clear and pleasant, so our prayer life with God is a journey. We pray and learn and practice and over time we develop more ability to converse with God, to hear Him, to obey, to converse and to grow more in love with the One who made us and has saved us.
On this journey prayer is a practice, something we do often, something we grow in. As we journey, we learn to pray more and to approach each day, each decision, each relationship and life point with prayer, talking to God, listening to Him, and gaining strength on this journey.
Take this moment and turn it in to prayer. Thank God for life and for the journey, for His patience and His love. Let God speak to your heart and listen for what He wants to say to you today.
Prayer is immersion in beauty
“Prayer is immersion in beauty–God’s beauty. Talking to Him regularly allows us to see His beauty in many places.” Mike Bickle, Growing in Prayer p. 18
This thought really struck me and the truth resonated deeply with me. So much in the Bible that points to beauty is related to God and our relationship with Him and His interaction with the creation.
“Wonder at reality demands the humility to sit at the foot of a dandelion. The proud are so full of themselves that there is little room to marvel at anything else.” Thomas Dubay, author of Prayer Primer: Igniting a Fire Within
Where have you been captivated by beauty? Have you found yourself hungering for beauty in some way? These are great prayer prompts!
Take time to slow down and really look at something beautiful and to talk to God about it or through it.
Prayer is wordless wonder
Walking along the beach yesterday late in the afternoon I was trying to pray with words and nothing was coming out.
That’s when I experienced this: Prayer is wordless wonder.
Not always. And not finally either. Prayer often involves words–hearing God’s Word, echoing His word, offering up our own words. That’s a lot of what this site is about afterall.
Yet there are still times when words fail us, but God doesn’t. His presence is still with us, and we still want to pray and worship Him, but the words aren’t there.
It’s okay to just open our eyes and ears and our spirits in wordless wonder before God.
“I opened my mouth and panted in longing, for I long for Your commands.” Psalm 119:131
Prayer is an outlet for our overflow
Sometimes we are full of emotion: joy, depression, rage, fear, and instead of avoiding God, prayer is the perfect outlet for what is welling up and overflowing. I saw this in Psalm 31 and it contains verses that Jesus used in his moment of abandonment and desolation.
In you, O Yahweh I have taken refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit,
redeem me O Yahweh, the God of truth.
There is terror on every side
My times are in your hands, deliver me from my enemies and from those pursuing me.