Does just reading that word make you feel at least a little bit guilty?
Talking about our prayer life often makes us feel scrutinized or nervous. We’re easily embarrassed to talk about it, or apologetic for it. Some of us don’t know how to pray, or we don’t pray enough, or we only pray at the last minute when it’s some kind of emergency. I can’t remember ever meeting anyone who thought they prayed often enough, earnest enough or faithfully enough.
Making matters worse, maybe we don’t understand prayer, or no one’s ever told us how to pray. In any event, this book is not meant to guilt you or make you feel bad. Talking with a Father who loves you and wants to hear from you should feel like a delight and not a duty.
Prayer isn’t something you have to do. Prayer is something you get to do! God invites us to pray by promising in Jeremiah 29:12, “Call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.”
What is prayer?
In its most general sense, prayer simply means communicating with God. This can be done audibly, as God hears our words, or silently, as God knows our thoughts. Prayer is the primary way we engage in relationship with God. And just as communication is key to interpersonal relationships, it’s vital to our relationship with God. That’s what prayer is: having a conversation with God.
And because communication is designed to run two ways, prayer can include both speaking to God and hearing from God.
This conversation can be done anywhere and in a variety of ways, whether in a traditional posture of bent knees, bowed head, and clasped hands, or in more natural ways like when we’re driving the car, mowing the yard or shopping for groceries. We can journal our prayers or pray through the writing of songs or poetry. We can shout our prayers, or we can maintain a receptive silence, listening for the still, small voice of God.
However we pray, wherever we pray, the goal is to always eagerly and humbly cultivate our relationship with our heavenly Father. In prayer we connect with the God who loves and cares for us.
Sometimes prayer moves the hand of God. More often, prayer changes our hearts as we capture something of God’s heart and are brought into agreement with and trust in him.
We were created by God, in the image of God, and we were designed to be in relationship with God. Therefore, the primary purpose of prayer is nurturing and growing our relationship with our Father — like a child who has frequent conversations with a parent who loves them.
This divine design has been corrupted, however, because sin entered the world through Adam and has captured and contaminated our hearts. There’s therefore an eternal divide between us and God.
But because God is our Father who loves us, he sent his Son to atone for our sins on the cross and conquer the wages of sin through his resurrection so that we could be reunited with God. And the Son then sends the Spirit to pursue us, to live within us and to comfort and empower us. The Christian life is lived in submission to the power and the sovereignty of the triune God, and therefore Christian prayers are prayed in submission to God’s Trinitarian being.
While there are times when we pray to God the Son (as Stephen did at his death in Acts 8:59) or to the Holy Spirit, ideally prayer is Trinitarian. This means that the primary mode of Christian prayer is reflective of the interpersonal relational community of the Trinity. When we read Jesus’ prayers in the Gospels we see glimpses of the inner life of the Trinity, of the Trinity’s communication and relationship with each other. This makes Jesus’ prayers the perfect examples for our prayers.
We pray to the Father, through the Son, by the presence and the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Our prayers as Christians exemplify our participation in the life of the Trinity.
This blog is an excerpt from the e-book Pray Like Jesus that you can download HERE.