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What is prayer?

As I talk to people about any subject, the more I see different ideas and perspectives on the definition and application of that subject; prayer is no different. Prayer is something that is talked about through the whole Bible, but not laid out in perfect steps with a dedicated book or chapter explaining what it is, how it is used, and why it is important. Love has its own chapter, which is quoted at many weddings, but prayer seems to be something that is just understood. Jesus’ disciples asked him how they should pray, which tells me that even back then, it was not something completely and clearly understood. Taking a look at a few scriptures, we can understand what prayer actually is.

Prayer at its simplest definition is talking with God. Jesus often went alone to pray to God. (Luke 5:16). Many times, the words “prayed to the Lord” are used together. Jesus says that if we believe in him and become children of God, we can call God our father. Prayer is talking to God, but is it special or different than talking to your own father? It is very different in a number of ways.

I will use the father analogy, but first I will define father since not everyone has the same situation and understanding of a “father”. A father in the Bible has a great responsibility to raise, protect, and provide for the family. A father has an obligation and sees it as a privilege to deeply love and care for his wife and children. A father only wants what is best for the family and will make hard decisions to bring the best possible outcome. Sometimes that means discipline and sometimes that means not giving them something they want because he knows it will hurt them in the long run.

God is all those things and more. God is also all knowing, all powerful and perfect. He understands what the outcome will be based on all the decisions and sequence of events and he can do something about it. Imagine going to your dad for advice, who is not perfect, all knowing, or strong enough to change your situation. It might be helpful, but not in the way that Prayer can be. That is why we pray to God. He gives good advice, steps in, and makes perfect decisions on our behalf keeping in mind the welfare and inner workings of the entire planet.

Can we just randomly talk to God about anything? If you have the ear of someone who is perfect and can do anything, why bother him with idle chatter? It makes sense to ask him for things. You can ask him to heal your aunt who has cancer, or to keep your children safe today. These are good things to pray for and you should ask God to do those things, but he is also interested in a simple conversation sharing your thoughts with him. Sometimes I struggle with the thought that if God knows everything and makes perfect decisions, why would I ask him to do anything that would change the course he has set. I often pray for God’s will to be done because it is a safe prayer. However, God doesn’t always want safe prayers. Many people have pleaded with God in the Bible to change his mind and we should ask to, knowing that God will make everything work out in a way we would not have expected. (Romans 8:28).


So, is that it, prayer is just talking to God? Have you ever talked to someone and never taken the time to listen to them? Listening is a really important part of prayer. Talking is two-way and we must take time to listen. During the prayer time, I might pause and just listen. Many times, I do not hear anything, but sometimes, I get a fresh thought or hear God give me direction for what I am praying about. This is followed by more talking to him about the situation and I come away with an answer, or direction. More often than that, I hear from him by reading the Bible. It is amazing how many times I have read something that speaks to my situation or what I am praying about. His Word never changes and always applies. You cannot have strong, two-way communication prayer, without reading it.

Prayer is talking with God and listening to what he has to say. He is not a granter of wishes, but a provider, protector, and guide for our lives. If you engage in prayer with an open heart and simply talk with him while being willing to listen, you will find prayer to be a significant part of your life and worth all the effort.

These verses mention prayer; as with anything in the Bible, read around these verses to get context and a full understanding of what message is being conveyed.

1 Kings 18:36; 1 Samuel 2:20; 2 Chronicles 33:13; Acts 4:31; Genesis 20:17; James 5:17; John 17:1; Luke 5:16; Mark 14:35; Nehemiah 1:4; 1 Kings 19:4; 1 Samuel 1:27; 1 Samuel 8:6; 2 Kings 19:15; Acts 1:24; Acts 6:6; Acts 7:59; Ezra 9:6; Luke 18:11; Mark 14:39; Nehemiah 2:4; 1 Kings 8:59; 2 Chronicles 30:18; Acts 27:29; Genesis 24:12; James 5:18; 1 Samuel 1:10; 2 Chronicles 32:24; Acts 20:36; Genesis 25:21; 2 Kings 6:18; 2 Samuel 15:31; Acts 10:2; Isaiah 38:2; Jonah 2:1; Judges 13:8; Matthew 26:44; Nehemiah 4:9; 2 Kings 6:17; Acts 13:3; Job 42:10; Judges 16:28; Matthew 26:42; Nehemiah 6:9; 1 Samuel 2:1; 2 Kings 4:33; Deuteronomy 9:26; Isaiah 37:21; Jonah 4:2; Luke 22:32; Matthew 26:39; Numbers 11:2; 1 Samuel 14:41; 2 Kings 20:2; Daniel 9:4; Exodus 8:30; Isaiah 37:15; Luke 22:41; Numbers 21:7; Acts 8:15; Daniel 6:10; Deuteronomy 9:20; Exodus 10:18; Genesis 32:9; Jeremiah 32:16; Luke 22:44; Mark 1:35; Acts 9:40;

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