Prayer is a vital portion of our lives and relationship to the One who gives us life. There is a sad truth, however, about prayer that we often ignore. Many of us have forgotten its true essence, meaning, and power. For some churches, it has become a ceremonial slice in the program. Prayers are cautiously uttered with excellence and eloquence but with no depth. Words come out of their mouths but not from the heart. We have lost the answer to the question we initially, eagerly asked when we first encountered His truth. If you are starting in your faith journey or you’re a Christian for years now, answering the question ‘what is prayer’ is of utmost importance. This is because prayer is essential to almost everything we need – growth, forgiveness, provisions, comfort, healing, and breakthrough.
What Is Prayer?
Prayer is the foundation of an intimate relationship with God. Communication is crucial in a relationship. We talk to God through our prayers and we hear His voice through His Word. These two come hand in hand. Both are necessary that we may follow God in our faith as we increase in wisdom, stature, and favor as Jesus did. Prayer is our direct connection to God. The most comprehensible answer to the question ‘what is prayer’ is simply, having a conversation with God. These plain words have pure and stupendous significance.
What is prayer? It is a fellowship to the one true God. Talking to Him means an intimate sharing of your thoughts, desires, and even pain. It is a consistent process that we may know God deeper each day and our relationship with Him to be closer. The longer we devote our time to Him, the stronger our connection with Him will be. When we share our hearts with God, He shares His own to us as well. Hence, we develop a greater love for His will and respect for His Word. When we pray, we are reaching out to the heart of God. And whenever we reach out to Him with wide-open arms, He welcomes us. In fact, He is always waiting for us to come before Him to seek His face.
Matthew 7:7-8 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Although we often come to God for the objective of praying, He is more concerned about us devoting our time to Him than our actual prayer. Granting our prayers is no hard thing for Him. Matthew 6:8 says “Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!”. See! He knows what we need without even us telling Him. Yet, He commands that we pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). It is because He longs to have fellowship with His children.
Furthermore, prayerful lives have exceptional advantages and favorable benefits seen in the world today. But, it is also important to take note of the things that do not affirm what prayer is.
What Isn’t Prayer?
Doing a prayer for the sake of presenting it doesn’t answer the question of ‘what is prayer’. Prayer is not a performance. It is never meant to impress anyone, not other people, ourselves, and especially not God. We lose prayer when we start doing it as a show. Jesus warned about this kind of prayer.
Matthew 6:5 “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.”
The word used by Jesus to describe those who pray for the glory of themselves is enough to alarm us. He called them hypocrites. We may fool others when we pretend to pray sincerely in front of them, but we can never fool God. He knows everything we say and what our intentions are. He looks directly at our hearts. There is also another fallacy of prayer that Jesus talked about in the Book of Matthew. He said:
Matthew 7:7 “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!”
Prayer is not defined by the length of words but by the depths of the heart. Prayer is not defined by the quantity of memorized prayers either. In the Bible, Jesus urges us not to pray with vain repetitions. Since our prayers reach out to the heart of God, the words we speak must also come from our hearts. We have to mean the words we say. God wants us to share our thoughts with Him freely, and prayer is the way to a stronger and deeper relationship with Him.
Why Do We Need To Pray?
In an overwhelming schedule, it is convenient to slack off and procrastinate praying. Today, many of us are too busy to find time to pray, and we assume that it’s no big deal. Prayer, however, is crucial for the soul and is our spirit’s way of breathing. This means that it is impossible for our spirit to persist without prayer. Jesus was serious about prayer and told us to take prayer seriously. Here are some noteworthy reasons why it is a must to pray:
The Purpose of Prayer
John 14:13 “You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.”
Contrary to the false sense of prayer Jesus tackled in the book of Matthew, the ultimate purpose of prayer is to give glory to God. Its prime intent is to honor Him. Prayer is our communication with God that benefits our entire being. When we seek Him with a genuinely pure heart, He showers us with blessings that our hearts desire.
Matthew 6:33 “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”
Other significant things follow when we devote our time to God. Our relationship with Him gets deeper. Our love for Him becomes wider. The more time we devote to God, the better we understand Him. Thus, transforming us into the man or woman He designed us to be.
The Privilege of Prayer
It is now the time to look at prayers from a different perspective. Instead of looking at prayers with eyes weary and exhausted. We should acknowledge that one of the greatest privileges we have is prayer. In truth, we are not worthy to come before God’s throne. We are sinful by nature and we do not have access to heaven’s line without Christ.
Have you ever thought of “what about talking to Him”? A holy and righteous God allows sinful men and women to talk to Him. Having the characteristics of disobedience and selfishness, we are still given the privilege to encounter God’s presence. We have the privilege to enjoy a relationship with the One who loves us unconditionally.
Hebrews 4:14-16 “So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”
A History to Understanding Our Undeserved Favor
In Jewish traditions, every year, the high priest will enter the Holy of Holies (the innermost part of the tabernacle). The presence of God is contained in this place. The high priest who will enter this place on the Day of Atonement must be clean in the eyes of God or they will surely face death (Exodus 28). They will bring with them the blood of a sacrificial animal to sprinkle in the Holy of Holies. (Leviticus 23 and 16). They do this every year for the forgiveness of their sins.
Jesus became our High Priest and the sacrificial lamb of God so that we can enter into the presence of God. With boldness and courage, we can come before His throne without the fear of death. It is the privilege we have in our every prayer.
The Precedence of Prayer
We remember to come before God when we are in the midst of our storms. It reminds us of our limitations and weakness so we come before the all-sufficient God for help. Perhaps, sometimes God allows trials to come into our lives because we have forgotten Him in the middle of our safe lounge. He reminds us of our frailty that we may put our faith in His everlasting authority. This, however, is a practice we need to improve.
Prayer should be our top priority each day and not our last resort when things fail. We do not come to God to clean up our mess and help us start a new every time we make mistakes. We are to surrender to Him our every plan, action, and season. It is foolish to wait for pain and shame before we recognize our need to connect to God. We are humans. On our own, we commit mistakes. We fail. We fall. So we need the voice of God to help us know which way to go or what to do. It takes faith and humility to admit that each day, we need His direction and guidance.
Psalms 139:16 “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”
We are lambs with short-sighted eyes not knowing where to go without its Shepherd. In John 10:27, Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” The more time we spend with God, the clearer we hear His voice. Thus, prayer should be put on the top of our to-do list each day. It will spare us hundreds of frustrations and pains.
The Power of Prayer
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”.
God has given us the weapon both for offense and defense purposes in this world through prayer. With prayer, we have the authority to destroy the works of the enemy against our lives. It is also through prayer that we can stand against the lies and temptations of this world. The power of prayer can move obstacles and protect us from the devil’s trap. It can change our circumstances as it changes our lives.
Matthew 26:41 Keep watch and pray so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”
Admit it, we cannot fight our battles by our own strength. We always need to get back to the source of all strength. Our spirit is dependent on God’s spirit. Hence, prayer should be done as if it is our way of breathing. Prayer is a lifestyle.
The A.C.T.S. of Prayer: Key Parts of Prayer
Although there is no particular composition and outline for a prayer to be effective, it matters that we know what our prayers should include. The issue is the heart and He deserves the best expression of our worship and prayer. There are important parts of prayer that we should never neglect as we come to the altar of prayer. What is prayer when it is not composed of the following main intention of it. Again, this is not the absolute way of praying. You always have the freedom to talk heart to heart with God in your unique ways. However, this is the best paradigm of prayer to start your prayer habit.
Opposite to what we usually think of prayer, it should shift our focus from ourselves to the Lord. The primary purpose of prayer is to give God glory. Thus, the first thing that we are to offer before the throne of His mercy is our adoration. Adoration is expressing our love and devotion to God through praises and a time of worship. We acknowledge Him for who He is. David’s prayers give us many examples of how to adore God. The Book of Psalms is composed of several praise songs of David.
Psalm 150:1-2 Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heaven! Praise him for his mighty works; praise his unequaled greatness!
David was called “a man after God’s own heart”. Several reasons regarded this title given to him. One of which is the transparency of his heart to God’s. He never ceases to come to God in every season of His life even when He committed a grievous sin. David was also a faithful worshiper of God. He utters his praises and adoration with immense passion.
Whenever we sin against God, we tend to run from Him as if turning away from Him makes Him unaware of our sin. However, this response is not new to God. Adam and Eve also tried to hide from God when they committed the first sin in the Bible (Genesis 3:6-10). That is what we are doing right now. We are running away from the presence of God whenever we do wrong things, and we are bound to make mistakes.
Psalm 32:5 Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.
It only takes an honest confession to stop running from God. He never condemns. He just forgives. This is the nature of God’s love. His abundant compassion and sufficient grace is enough for us. Confession leads us to repentance, and this pleases God.
This reminds us of the story of the prodigal son. He made a mistake against his father when he left home and wasted his inheritance he had demanded from his father. Realizing he can’t survive on his own, he went back to his father to ask forgiveness. He didn’t want to be accepted as a son again, requesting to be a servant of his father. But his father, filled with love and compassion accepted his son’s return and treated him as if he never sinned. Our Father in heaven always has His arms open wide, waiting for us to return home.
After our confession, God deserves our thanksgiving. There are innumerable things God has done or given us that it is impossible for us not to thank Him. The air that we breathe, our family, security, enough provisions, answered requests and more. We should also be thankful for His grace, love, mercy, salvation, patience, hope, blessings, and the Holy Spirit. We have a long list to be thankful for.
The Apostle Paul reminds us to pray with thanksgiving through his letter to the Church of Philippi:
Philippians 4:6 “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”
The key to contentment is a heart full of gratitude. This is the attitude of a heart’s dependent to God’s. Let us remember all God has done in our lives and thank Him. Truly, He deserves a ‘thank you, Lord.’
The last part of prayer is supplication. It is the time where we will ask God for whatever we need. The beauty of putting supplication in the last part of your prayer is that you have already praised Him, confessed to Him and thanked Him.
Therefore, you can come to Him ready with a heart on the right tune to ask for the things you need. It is never a bad thing to ask God for help. James 4:2 tells us that we do not get what we want because we do not ask. He wants us to ask Him, to appeal to Him and send our requests to Him through our prayers.
Matthew 7:11 “So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”
He is the God who created all things, nothing is too big or too hard for Him. Our access to this Immeasurable source is simple- prayer. We will never know what God has in store for us unless we ask for it so start asking.
So, what is prayer? Prayer is a never-ceasing communication with God. When praying, we know that no matter how far we roam, unlike cellphones, our connection with God will never be lost!