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What is Prayer and Why Should We Care?

Updated: Jun 15, 2023

Prayer is such an important part of our Christian walk. We hear people talk about prayer and its power all the time, but you may be wondering, "What even is prayer?"

Prayer is our conversations with God. It's a way of interacting with Him that involves both speaking and listening. Prayer encapsulates many forms and needs: confession, vows, gratitude, surrender, praise, requests, obedience, and listening. Sometimes the Holy Spirit intercedes (makes petitions on our behalf) for us when we don't know what to pray (Romans 8:26-27). Sometimes our conversation with God may be silent. You may simply sit in awe of God and His goodness, or sit in your sorrow with God in pains you don't even know how to express.

Prayer can be formal or informal, at the altar or in a car, structured or conversational. God just wants to hear from us! Our prayers don't need to be a certain length or a certain style. You don't even have to say "amen" to talk with God. Just talk to Him like you would a good friend! The "amen" prayer isn't designed to teach us to only follow a certain prayer structure but rather to communicate our faith in God. "Amen" translates as "truly" or "so be it." It's an acknowledgment of our binding vow. Saying "amen" conveys our trust in the truth and power of God. Ending our prayers with an "amen" is a beautiful confession of faith to God, but why do we do it? Do we do it because we understand the meaning or because we want our prayers to seem impressive to others? Prayer is a genuine form of communication with God. There is no fooling Him. He knows our heart and motive before we even approach Him, and that's what He looks for when we pray! He isn't impressed by 2-hour prayers or 3-minute prayers. He is moved by our reason for approaching Him in the first place.

In addition to having the right motives, it is important to humbly confess our sins to God and express gratitude and recognition for who He is. If we knowingly hide sin in our hearts, He won't hear our prayers (Psalm 66:18). This doesn't mean we don't make mistakes; it means we don't intentionally live in sin. This is why it's important, too, to ask God to examine our hearts and reveal any wicked way in us (Psalm 139:23-24).

Hopefully, now, you understand the definition of prayer, but why should you care?

It's helpful to think of your close relationships with others. Think of your best friend. Do you think you would have a strong relationship with your best friend if you never talked to him? Many times people say "they drifted apart" from friends because they stopped talking. It's nearly impossible to be in a close relationship with someone you never communicate with, and the same is true of our relationship with God.

Similarly, if you don't ever talk to your best friend, how well will you know him? You might learn about him through talking with others, but you will have a hard time learning his heart, intentions, and direction in life without talking to him personally. Knowing someone and knowing about someone are two entirely different things. We must approach our prayer life in a similar manner.

Prayer allows us to connect with God personally, hear from Him directly, and know Him more intimately. We can't experience answers to our prayers if we never pray them. Prayer heals the disconnect we occasionally feel in our relationship with God. Through it, we can hear God's heart and communicate our praise and gratitude. Through it, we can repent of our sins and find God's grace and forgiveness. As we confessed our faith and asked God for forgiveness through prayer, God gifted us with salvation. Prayer helps us walk in truth, model the fruits of the Spirit, forgive others, and purify our hearts and minds. It is an active, essential part of our faith that influences everything we do.

We are encouraged to pray without ceasing, which means that we are in consistent communication with God and that He is always at the forefront of our minds (1 Thess. 5:16-18). Jesus gave us a model prayer that highlights important components of our prayer life in Matthew 6:9-13:

Our Father in heaven,

Your Name be honored as holy.

Your kingdom come.

Your will be done

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And do not bring us into temptation,

but deliver us from the evil one.

For Your is the kingdom and the power

and the glory forever. Amen

Let's break these beautiful words down into its parts. First, Jesus recognizes the Father's character and holiness. He communicates a surrender to His will and then looks to God for daily help and sustenance (our daily bread). Then, He asks for forgiveness for our sins (remember: Jesus was sinless. This was a model prayer for us, which is why He used the words "us" and "our"). Next, He conveys the importance of forgiving others as we have been forgiven. He prays for protection and deliverance from Satan and concludes with a statement of praise and humility, following with an "amen."

Prayer keeps us in a posture of humility, gratitude, and praise toward God. It helps us grow in our relationship with Him. Prayer is not a duty or to-do list; it's a privilege to be able to communicate with the Creator of the universe, the Author of our lives! What an honor!

~Allyson B.

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