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What is Prayer? Why Pray?

by | Feb 4, 2013 | Blog, Community, Mission, Redemption, Worship

A guest post by Bubba Hines…

What is prayer?

Wayne Grudem says, “Prayer may be defined as follows: Prayer is personal communication with God.

Now that is a mighty wide definition. Especially considering the various types of prayers that we can include. Under the heading of “prayer” we have prayers of:

  • Adoration
  • Confession
  • Intercession (asking something for others)
  • Petition (asking something for ourselves)
  • Praise
  • Thanksgiving

Prayer is one of, if not the, most important activities of our Christian life. It is a conversation with God—a conversation in which the entire Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit) is involved.

Pray to God the Father

First off, we pray to God the Father. In Matthew 6:6 Christ tells us directly to “…pray to your Father … ,” and then in Matthew 6:9, He proceeds to demonstrate it by starting His example with “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven …. ” Christ specifically tells us here, in word and deed, that we are to pray to God the Father.

Andrew Murray, a Christian writer, once said, “The power of prayer depends almost entirely upon our understanding of who it is with whom we speak.” When we pray, we are talking to God, the Creator of the universe. He is far greater and more powerful than the universe He created, and yet He is there with us when we pray!

Pray through the Son

Paul says that “through Him (Jesus) we both (Jews and Gentiles) have access to the Father by one Spirit” (Ephesians 2:18). Jesus said that His Father would give “whatever you ask in My name” (John 15:15). We have no right, in and of ourselves, to approach God in any manner, much less prayer. But what we cannot do, in and of ourselves, we can do through Jesus and His name. This is why you hear so many prayers end with “through Jesus our Lord” or “in the name of Jesus.” This is not merely a formula: it is our acknowledgement that we can only come to God through Jesus!

Pray in the Spirit

Occasionally, we may find it hard to pray. But that is precisely one of the reasons that Christ has sent the Holy Spirit to us. Paul says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27). There is more that could be said about the work of the Spirit. For now it is sufficient to know that when we pray, God is praying through us by His Spirit who lives in us as Christians.

Why Pray?

Developing a Relationship with God

Now that we have discussed what prayer is, we can move into the first point. Why pray? Well, I submit that prayer is primarily about us developing a closer and better relationship with God. Reflect for a moment on your closest friend. Perhaps it is a parent, spouse, sibling, or just a close friend. How did you develop your relationship? Did it just spring into being? Do you know this friend a fully as possible, or is there still more for you to learn about them?

I would go out on a limb and say that you and your best friend are exactly that because you went through a process of getting to know each other. You talk together, sharing ideas and concepts with each other, and then you act on those ideas and concepts by doing things together. I would also say that you don’t know this best friend as fully as possible, there is still more for each of you to learn about the other, and your relationship is always capable of growing deeper, or even perhaps growing more shallow.

Is it not your experience when you and your friends spend time talking and doing things together you grow closer, but as you increasingly spend time away from each other you grow further apart? Can you imagine having and maintaining a close relationship with someone without spending time together talking and doing things?

This is precisely why prayer is so important to the Christian. God means to be our best friend! I’ve written much on the primary way that God speaks to us, through the Bible. Well, now we are talking about prayer—how we speak to God! As we listen to God speak to us, and as we speak to Him, we have conversations. As we converse, we come closer to knowing God, and as we come closer to knowing Him we desire to do more things with Him.

Faith in God

Prayer was not instituted so that we can let God know what it is that we need or want. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:8 “for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” No, prayer demonstrates our faith in God and is the means by which our faith in Him can increase. Wayne Grudem puts it this way, “When we humbly pray, demonstrating our dependence on God, we are also demonstrating that we are genuinely convinced of God’s wisdom, love, goodness, and powerindeed of all the attributes that make up His excellent character. When we truly pray, we as persons, in the wholeness of our character, are relating to God as a person, in the wholeness of His character. Thus, all we think or feel about God comes to expression in our prayer.” Do you see this? As we pray, all that we think or feel about God gets expressed through our prayers.

Fellowship with God

Not only does God want us to express our faith in Him, He also wants us to love Him and have fellowship with Him. This then is the second reason why we should pray. Prayer brings us into a deeper fellowship with God in much the same way as talking to a friend brings us into a deeper fellowship with them.

Involved with God

As we pray to God, and our relationship with Him deepens, our desire to be more involved in activities with Him increases. Prayer allows us to be involved in activities that are eternally important. When we pray the work of the kingdom of God is advanced! So that prayer provides us the opportunity to be involved in a significant way in the work of God’s Kingdom.

Look for the next installment on prayer here

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