I am in a series of posts about what I call the Essentials of the Christian life. They aren’t new or creative—but they are also not optional. They are truly essential to our health and life. We’ve talked about worship—both individual and corporate. Worship is how we put God first in our life, and it acts as a rudder, steering us through life.
But our relationship with God is not a relationship with a distant deity. It is personal. Throughout the Bible God chooses to use terms for our experience with Him that go beyond knowledge of Him to personal, intimate experience. This kind of intimacy assumes a basic aspect of relationship—communication.
A good definition of “prayer” in all its Biblical forms is communication between us and God.
Most of us need to broaden our understanding of prayer. The very word comes from an old English usage meaning “ask”. Certainly, asking for things: basic needs, forgiveness, protection, guidance, etc. is part of prayer (look at what Jesus told us to pray about in the Lord’s Prayer).
But prayer is also expressing emotion to God, praising and thanking Him.
Prayer is about the relationship, not the request.
And sometimes it’s just listening.
Most evangelicals emphasize prayer as part of “devotions”—private prayer and Bible study time, often beginning the day. This can be a good thing—unless we make the mistake of talking to God for 30 minutes in the morning and then going through the rest of the day as though He isn’t there.
In fact, Paul tells us to never stop talking to God—and that wasn’t a figure of speech!
So, prayer needs to be those specific times we set aside with no distractions to just talk to God about our day, the things we have promised to pray about, etc. It needs to be an ongoing, never ending conversation with God about every aspect of our life. It needs to be authentic, honest, open about our thoughts, feelings and actions. In fact, it has to be ALL of these. Prayer is when we, children of God, come to the perfect Father and share our lives with Him.
With all that said, prayer requires that we also just slow down, shut up, and listen to God. With maturity, we learn to hear Him through His Word, through guidance from others, through circumstances, through His creation, and through the Holy Spirit’s conviction.
As our communication with God develops, so does our individual worship of God, because we are more aware of His presence with us moment to moment.
We are less likely to sin.
We are less likely to be self-focused.
When prayer is about the relationship, not just a list of requests, we are more likely to offer our lives moment to moment as an act of worship to our King!