What is Prayer?
Prayer in its simplest form is communication with God, but as with all relationships, there are levels to this communication. When we partner in the act of communicating with anyone, we do so with the basic understanding that there are at least two parties present. God has been present before we even existed because He is the creator of all things. Our prayer life with Him, though, began as we became familiar with His presence.
How Do I Pray?
Our initial interactions with God may have been a plea of desperation, an acknowledgment of his deity, or a recognition of the power that led us to Him. However it transpired, this awareness produced prayer, pure and simple.
At the start of a relationship, we spend a lot of time talking and listening as we get to know each other. A similar dynamic happens as we get to know the God of our lives. We read the Bible, and we pray. We spend moments talking to God; we share our deepest thoughts or our superficial questions as they remove layers that lend to a deepening relationship. We do this dance where we pour out our hearts to him through varying emotions – love, joy, pain, anger, disappointment, frustration, and glee; and He, unlike us, is not shocked by any of it. He welcomes our thoughts and feelings.
But then we also have to do the difficult part of stopping to hear what He is saying to us, and this is where we are stymied. The silence throws us off. We think we have to fill the void with our words, and He says, “Be still and know that I am God,” Psalms 46:10.
“Prayer always starts with praise for who God is.”
But we wrestle, just like His disciples must have when they said: “Lord, teach us how to pray.” So Jesus taught them in Matthew 6:9-13. Prayer always starts with praise for who God is because part of praying is an awareness of the essence of God; an appreciation of his omniscience leads to adoration. When we adore something or someone we are enamored by the essence of who they are. So enamored are we, that in this state of adoration we’re not thinking of ourselves but are grateful for the enrichment. This is the initial posture we assume when we start to pray: “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.”
“We recognize that we need Him.”
As we go deeper in prayer, we begin to realize that we want his touch to be evident in every aspect of our lives because we believe it to be perfectly loving and righteous. We recognize our shortcomings and recognize that we need Him. We need His righteousness and His perfection in our imperfect lives. “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done.”
Because of our continual dependence on God, we make requests. Praying reminds us that we need him daily and that He is daily able to meet our needs. Yes, he promised to give us the desires of our heart, but so often our desires aren’t aligned with His will. We stress about material things, better jobs, and simplified relationships, but only for our benefit. We are more self-focused, and that was never His focus when he taught us how to pray. “Give us this day our daily bread.”
“Our hearts crave for something better than this world.”
Our relationships matter. If there is discord, we need to forgive just as we were forgiven because forgiveness is the oil that moves our relationships forward. When we are willing to clean the slate with forgiveness, we begin to experience what Jesus did for us. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”
While we live on this earth as Christians, we can’t be oblivious to evil and the temptations that surround us. We have to approach things differently in a loving way as we navigate the evils in this world. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we behave differently. “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”
This life is not permanent, and in prayer, our hearts crave for something better than this world. “For thine is the Kingdom the Power and The Glory.”
“He wanted to aligned himself with his Father’s will.”
In this prayer, it was not about what Jesus wanted for Himself but rather that He wanted to aligned himself with his Father’s will. It demonstrated the power of God, the will of God, and the knowledge of God, while illustrating the direction of our hearts as we pray.
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus set a model of how to pray. His disciples heard Him pray often and they began to learn the deeper lesson of prayer, that it is constant interaction with the Father just as Paul noted when he told us to pray often in I Thessalonians 5:17: “pray without ceasing.”To pray without ceasing is to pray non-stop in a similar fashion to breathing.
“What if we prayed so often, we depended on it like we do breathing?”
What if we’ve misunderstood prayer? And in our attempts to formalize it, we have made it the oxygen mask used for stress management only in special circumstances instead of just praying as often as we breathe? What if we simply paused momentarily and recognized God’s presence right here, right now? What if we prayed knowing that God is a God who hears (El Shama), and we don’t need to do anything special to get his attention?
What if we prayed so often, we depended on it like we do breathing? What if in our regular times of prayer, we were infused like Daniel ( Daniel 6), to the point where this became our normal?
What if prayer occurred continuously, making us regularly attuned to the One who breathed life?
“Even as he knew the suffering that was to come, he was concerned enough to think about us.”
So attuned was Jesus, that just before He was about to be crucified, He prayed for his disciples ( John 17). At the most critical juncture of His life, the One who instituted prayer prayed for his disciples and, by extension, us. Even as he knew the suffering that was to come, he was concerned enough to think about us and to demonstrate what was possible. When He did so, He followed the model laid out in the Lord’s Prayer.
He started off with adoration by acknowledging the worthiness of whom he prayed. He focused on His father’s will, then He prayed that His disciples would be fortified and unified. He illustrated how the Kingdom on earth would look. There was no need to ask for forgiveness on their behalf since He was the one who provided forgiveness.
“He used simple language yet expressed profound thoughts.”
When Jesus prayed for us – it was raw, heartfelt, powerful, and intimate. He used simple language yet expressed profound thoughts, which showed a depth of caring, wisdom, and compassion. While He prayed, he spanned time by talking about the past, present, and future. Jesus prayed for Himself (v1-5), His disciples (v6-19), and us (v20-26).
He prayed for our protection that we might bring Him glory, our knowledge, our unity and that His love would be evident in our lives. Jesus was about to face the biggest trial of his life, but He had us in mind. He always has us in mind! Notably, the essence of Jesus’ prayer was that He would bring Glory to His Father.
“Pray because you want to get to know Him better.”
“Thy will be done” is the constant theme for our Christian life. As you deepen your relationship with the one who demonstrated His love for you, pray often, pray authentically, pray selflessly, and pray without obligation, requirement, or formula. Like Jesus, be raw, heartfelt, powerful, and intimate. Pray for each other; intercede on other’s behalf as He did for you.
Finally, pray because you want to get to know Him better. Then take time to be in His presence and hear what He is saying to you by listening to His Word and the Holy Spirit. Do this at the start of the day, the end of the day, and anytime in between. Make prayer your habit so that as you pray, you will see a maturity in yourself that shifts the focus from you to Him; so that your life gives Him glory and in so doing, His will is done.
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