Prayer in my experience always has started with some form of “Dear God” and ended with one variation of “Amen.” I’d imagine most of you have a similar experience. But, as I’ve been thinking about prayer this week (sitting on a flight to and from Sin City will do that to you), I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m still doing it wrong. I’ve come to realize that my view of prayer is flawed from the very start. But, that’s because I’ve never really sat down and understood what prayer is at its core.
Prayer is an invocation or act that seeks to activate a rapport with [God] through deliberate communication. Prayer…may be either individual or communal and take place in public or in private. It may involve the use of words or song. When language is used, prayer may take the form of a hymn, incantation, formal creed, or a spontaneous utterance in the praying person. There are different forms of prayer such as petitionary prayer, prayers of supplication, thanksgiving, and worship/praise. Prayer may be…for the purpose of worshipping, requesting guidance, requesting assistance, confessing sins or to express one’s thoughts and emotions. Thus, people pray for many reasons such as personal benefit or for the sake of others. — Wikipedia
Prayer is deliberate communication
Read the first sentence one more time. Prayer is an invocation or act that provides direct communication with God. Friends, what I’m doing right now is prayer. The very words you are reading right now are my prayer. Prayer is anything that brings you closer to God. For some, it may be feeding the homeless. For others, it may be gardening. And others still, perhaps rock climbing. Prayer isn’t just “bow your heads and close your eyes.” And that’s exactly where my view of prayer needed mending.
Prayer is not an act
Just because we’re doing what we love and it makes us feel alive as we’ve been individually wired, doesn’t mean we’re actually praying. I can be in the habit of restoring sex trade victims all my life and that not be prayer. The pitfall is, prayer is not formulaic. It is not a series of steps. It is a posturing of the heart and mind. Prayer is not the what, but the why.
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. — I Corinthians 13:1–3
Pray to live
Simply, we pray because we must to live. If Jesus really is the Life (emphasis on the capital ‘l’), then to have part, or partake for those looking for the Christian buzzword, in that Life, we have to actively do so. Prayer is that striving. Prayer is also the evidence of that Life in us. Friend, do not think too lowly of prayer. It is nothing less than our lifeline. Should it not also be our lifeblood? Even Jesus, who was God, used prayer to petition God daily for His daily bread. Especially Jesus prayed constantly when His time was drawing near to meet His fate on the cross. But, more importantly, He prayed in the interim. Is it not all the more important for us who are not God?
Prayer is how we communicate with God. But, it is not limited in the way that religion has taught us for too long. Prayer is broad and prayer is free. But, it is not without a specific posture of the heart that takes our base actions, thoughts or words and directs them to heaven. It’s the heart that changes action into prayer. And, dear friend, we need to pray. We, I for sure, desperately need to pray. Because these bones will condemn me to death if I try to live any other way. Because I forget so easily and turn from the God who loves me so. Simply, I don’t want that. He is far too good to cast Him aside like refuse. Because Life is too good. How are you praying today?