Prayer is a well-known word, and most people would say they know what prayer is. Yet when you think of someone praying, what do you picture? A small child bedside praying a “now I lay me down to sleep” prayer? Spiritual figures praying in a Sanctuary? Those cushioned kneelers from the Catholic Church when you were young?
Although we might have a picture of what prayer looks like, how many of us can say we truly understand what prayer is? Let’s dig into Scripture and see what God has to say about what prayer is, how we pray, and why prayer is so important.
What is Prayer?
Prayer, in general, is a request for help or an expression of thanks, and a time of prayer is a personal time between you and God. Prayer in itself is an act of worship that glorifies God and allows us to experience His power through the Holy Spirit. Scripture provides us numerous examples of people crying out to God in praise, asking for strength, guidance, or healing, asking questions, and so much more. While we don’t see a definition of prayer like we would in a dictionary, we see examples of what prayer is: a way to communicate with and build a relationship with God.
How do I pray?
Jesus taught His Disciples how to pray. In Matthew 6:6, Jesus states, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Jesus urged that prayer should be a personal time between the worshipper and God. He did not say that praying with others is wrong, but that prayer should be sincere and from the heart. Public prayer can be just as powerful as private prayer, in fact, and helps build community between all of us and God! He built us for relationships, after all.
Yet even though Jesus gives us instruction on how to pray, what He doesn’t provide is step-by-step instructions on where to sit, what to do with your hands, whether your eyes should be open or closed. Those parts aren’t what’s truly important. What he does provide us with is a place to begin with The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) and many scripture verses provide us with the simple guidance of “take it to God”:
”Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
”Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Ephesians 6:17-18)
”First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.” (1 Timothy 2:1)
From Scripture, we do find some essential elements of prayer: Praise (telling God of your joy), Confession (telling God what is on your heart), Intercession (praying for others), Petition (asking of God), Thanksgiving (thanking God for all of His love and grace), and Listening (hearing God’s response). So, with all of these things in mind, prayer is simply taking these things to God.
Why is prayer so important?
In James 5:16, we read “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” Prayer is powerful! God listens to those who pray in earnest, and He rewards us when we pray. We receive what He has provided for us and what is His will— grace, salvation, and love. We see this same sentiment in 1 John and in Mark, along with other books in the Bible:
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” (1 John 5:14-15)
“Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24)
Prayer also gives us a chance to grow in our relationships with Christ. When we take our praise, confessions, intercessions, petitions, and thanksgiving to God, we unburden ourselves of all of those things. Prayer leaves us with the knowledge that God will provide for us, giving us more time to dedicate to getting to know Him through living out His will.
How can I practice or learn more about prayer?
Studying the Word and worshiping together are usually the go-to recommendations on learning more about prayer, but we have a few opportunities that you can practice in your every-day life.
- Family devotion time: when digging into God’s Word together, you have an opportunity to learn what is on each other’s hearts and give those things to God together through prayer.
- Pastoral prayer or daily devotions: these written examples can get you started with prayer.
- Having a prayer partner or being in a Prayer Group: a partner can help keep you accountable if you’re goal is praying more regularly. They can also support you in learning how others pray.
- Being still, alone, and observant: God’s creation is all around us and speaking to us every day. Take a moment to observe your surroundings and listen to how God is speaking to you!
- Journaling: Sometimes the chaos of thoughts makes praying difficult! Try writing your thoughts down, which may help with slowing your thought process, thinking things through, and listening to what God is telling you.
The Wrap Up
No one’s prayer life will look exactly like yours. Your prayer pattern and style are unique to you, just like fingerprints. The study of prayer is almost like the study of the Holy Trinity: the more you study, the less clear the topic becomes. Prayer is almost more like heart knowledge than head knowledge: the more you pray, the more you learn about prayer and the more you connect with the Spirit. You don’t need knowledge of prayer and prayer practices to start: just carve out some time and connect with God.
Check out these resources on prayer on RightNow Media
for some additional study materials. You can also look at Prayer by O Hallesby
and Handbook to Prayer by Kenneth Boa
. As we dig into our prayer series this month, we hope you’ll join us live online on Sunday mornings at 11:15 AM
, or plan a visit to join us in person
. As always, if you have questions, please don’t hesitate to email us
! We’d love to hear from you.