What is Prayer?

As part of the Delighting in Trinitarian Prayer series, this post focuses on the concept and act of prayer. One of the most powerful tools a Christian has is prayer, yet so often, it is either not used or taken for granted. We, including myself, let many distractions get in the way of our prayer time. We either come before God and mark off a box because we know we are “supposed” to pray or we don’t pray because we would rather sleep or use our time doing 100 different other things. 

One of the ways we as believers can worship God and have fellowship with Him is through prayer. It is a way to get direction, a way to listen, a way to confess, and a way to talk your problems and struggles over with the Creator. A weapon that can be used against evil and our flesh, often goes without being used because we fall into the temptation of not praying. Sometimes that is seen in the form of trying to control a situation in our own power, or we say we don’t know what to say or how to pray. Sometimes the hurt is so much, we don’t feel we can come to God. Yet, at any given point in the day, God is there for all of us. he wants us to pray and talk with Him. He wants to have fellowship with us and build a deeper relationship. God already knows your prayers, yet He wants all of us to come to Him and seek Him. It is about remembering who is first, who is in control, and why we need Him. We will continually fail until we reach out to God and seek Him. 

The beauty of prayer is that we can never go to the president or CEO of a company. Even our loved ones won’t always be available to us. But God always is and He is ready for us. he wants us to come and talk with Him. He doesn’t need it or need us to come, but we do. We need prayer. In a recent book by Tim Keller called “Prayer”, he describes a situation in which a woman compares prayer to medicine that is absolutely wonderful. When we are sick, hurting or injured, we will take some medicine to heal. The woman who is suffering from a major ailment that requires taking medicine every day to attack the illness says she would never miss a day of the medicine. Why would she subject herself to pain by not taking the medicine. But, she also prayed because while the medicine may alleviate the pain or go after the virus, only prayer can heal. Prayer cures and helps the spiritual that leads to other areas of our lives. She says that she would never miss prayer because she needed it. Prayer was the true medicine. Why would we not pray and take the “medicine” that our bodies and souls truly need.

What is Prayer

“Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God hath promised, or according to the Word, for the good of the church, with submission, in faith, to the will of God.”[1] Prayer is an act of worshiping God. It is the calling out to God for assistance, thanking the Father for His provisions, adoring the Triune God, a confession of sins, and conversing with the Almighty God. It is one of the most important ways of building intimacy and fellowship with the Father, Son, and Spirit. The Heidelberg catechism “affirms that prayer is quite simply the first act of thanksgiving toward God. The word ‘thanksgiving’ is more appropriate than gratitude because it means acting according to what we know has been given.”[2] However, prayer and adoration are different. Adoration praises God because of his character, whereas thanksgiving is the expression of gratitude for what God does. “Thanksgiving arises from the reception of God’s gifts; adoration centers on the Giver.”[3]

Prayer is the Christian’s way to take their cares and concerns to God for help. Joseph Scriven is quoted as saying, “O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry, Everything to God in prayer!” “Prayer is God’s appointed way to fullness of joy because it is the vent of the inward burnings of our heart for Christ.”[4] It also “provides the power to do what we love to do but can’t do without God’s help…. Prayer is the fountain of joy because it is the source of power to love.”[5] “In the biblical view of prayer is the pouring out of the soul to a God who hears and acts. Prayer is crying out to God in our anguish and being set free when he answers (Ps 118:5; cf Ps 116:1-8).”[6]

[1] John Bunyan, A Discourse Touching Prayer, internet, accessed 2 December 2014, http://acacia.pair.com/Acacia.John.Bunyan/Sermons.Allegories/Discourse.Touching.Prayer/2.html.

[2] Karl Barth, Prayer, (London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), 14.

[3] Stanley J. Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000), 495.

[4] John Piper, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, (Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books, 2012), 176.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Donald Bloesch, God the Almighty, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 231.


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