What is Prayer?
So, you know you should pray. You hear it’s a “discipline.” You marvel at “spiritual giants” (at least that’s how they’re talked about) who wake up at 4:00 a.m. to pray for three hours each morning. You wonder if you really know how to pray, even though you pray before meals and when life gets hard. But what is prayer, really?
Simply put, it’s a never-ending conversation with God. Abraham walked with Him like with a friend. David gratefully sang to Him, fearfully whispered to Him, and angrily cried out to Him. Jesus practiced it with awe for the Heavenly Father and modeled it with less words than more. Paul wrote, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Prayer Like Breathing
It sounds like breathing, and it’s just as life-giving. We pray as we walk with God, similar to when we breathe as we take a walk. We pray when we’re grateful, fearful, or angry, like how we sigh or hold our breath or take quick short breaths with those same emotions. We pray with reverence and sobriety, using few (not fancy) words, like how we take a deep breath or lose our breath or catch our breath. We breathe all the time, and we pray all the time, listening more than talking.
We don’t have to remind ourselves to breathe. That may be the difference. We often forget to pray. There are lots of reasons why, but I would suggest that we often forget to pray either because we forget our need for God’s presence or we forget God is with us entirely.
We have been invited into a God-with-us life. Jesus’ nickname is Immanuel–God with us. And, a huge part of life with Jesus is that He invites us along to make disciples with Him. Prayer is essential to making disciples with Jesus. Here are two reasons why:
1. Prayer allows us to tune into how God is at work in and around us.
God is at work in and around you. Please believe that. How are you tuning in? That’s what prayer allows. We are not only to listen to God, we are to listen for God. His Spirit is at work in our own heart, minds, lives, and relationships. His Spirit is also at work in the lives of our family members, neighbors, co-workers, classmates, and friends. He has invited us along with Him to be a part of how He is at work in their lives. Prayer allows us to be tuned into what He is doing and join Him there. Pray for eyes to see, ears to hear, minds to understand, and hearts to love with Him there.
2. Prayer enables us to prepare ourselves to love our neighbor.
Wade Owens, Campus and Teaching Pastor of The Church at Nolensville, suggests that each of us redeem our drive out of our neighborhood and back into our neighborhood by using it to pray for our neighbors. You could say the same about the last few minutes of driving to work, school, or the gym. You could say the same with regard to your family about the last few minutes of your day at home. And, what would we pray?
The Starting Place
Well, you may already do this. Which is great! But if you don’t, that’s okay, too. Today is a good day to start! So, start with these three suggested ways. You can pray in other ways as you go from here. First, pray to know them by name. Next, pray to discover their story. Finally, pray for a specific way to encourage and love them right where they are. You will be blown away at how God answers these prayers!
Prayer is essential, period. It’s so life-giving and essential to making disciples with Jesus. May we become disciples of Jesus making disciples with Jesus who pray without ceasing.