Whenever I get asked this question, I find myself pausing for a moment.
What is prayer?
We’ve asked this for a long time. Even people who claim to have been Christians their entire lives secretly ask this from time to time. But it’s an interesting thing to think about and even discuss.
Over the years, my understanding of prayer has changed. Broadened, I should say. And in simple terms, it comes down to conversation with God. But let me expound a little more. It’s not just conversation with God in secret, although that is what Jesus often did and advised us to do in Matthew 6. It’s not just uttering tongues or in your spiritual language, although the Bible confirms this to be a gift of the Spirit. It’s also not just closing your eyes, bowing your head, and praying for one another corporately, even though… you get it.
Though this might sound unorthodox, that’s kind of the point.
Prayer is a conversation.
You can continue this conversation throughout your day whether it’s in your heart and mind or with others. For example, you can take an encouraging conversation you had with someone and let that be a prayer. Ephesians 4:29 says, let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. In communicating with others, you have the power to speak (or pray) life or death into their situations.
In Philippians 4, after talking about rejoicing and praying in everything, Paul says to think on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, etc. what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
These verses make me wonder, why do we complicate prayer? There are methods and step-by-step books, even curriculums, available today to learn how to pray because we humans have asked for directions for so long (not to discredit them because they are helpful for many).
Thankfully, Jesus took the time to tell us, and very specifically in Matthew 6:
And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
Prayer is not for show, but to connect with God and with others. It is to connect God to others, because He’s in you. And to connect others to God, because He lives through you. Through your conversations, you can “pray” for others as you speak life into their lives.
But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Prayer is a secret. The secret is the prayer. A person who gardens is a gardener; a person who runs is a runner; and a person who prays is a prayer. As a Prayer, you have direct access to the Father who is in secret and sees in secret. Though you can take this verse literally, and there’s value in doing so, you can turn within (as Madam Guyon would say) and connect with the Holy Spirit within. Turn within to Him with your thoughts and the motives of your heart.
And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Later in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus says in chapter 7 that not everyone who says to Him “Lord, Lord,” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Despite the many things they did in His name, He did not know them. Prayer is a conversation which establishes your relationship with God. You get familiar with His voice through His Word, by truth, and the Helper.
Pray then like this:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Prayer is completely aligning yourself to the will of the Father. It’s desiring and obeying His truth and submitting to His commands. It’s trusting Him and increasing in faith, because by His grace we have been saved through faith.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Prayer is a heart posture. Bowing and stooping lower to reflect the love and grace and compassion and forgiveness of Christ. It’s letting His love renew your mind and lead you into transformation. Prayer is your heart’s motive to live a life worthy of the calling you’ve received. It’s a pursuit to lead others into freedom. It’s living, loving, and lingering with intention to build relationship with God and those around you.
Your conversations are prayer. You are prayer.
So, how do you pray?