What is prayer? As Christians we give a lot of lip service to prayer. We pray when we gather. We pray before bed and meals. We know that Jesus prayed and if you ask most of us we will say that we believe in prayer, but if you dig deeper you will find that we don’t really practice prayer, at least not in the way that Jesus did.
I think for many believers prayer is something that we do with duty. Its not something we are passionate about. It is not what drives us. So, as I have been confronted with these thoughts I’ve been asking, what is prayer fundamentally? The obvious answers are things like, communicating with God or communing with God, but those answers feel distant and un-motivating. Some might say prayer is like talking with a friend, but that answer feels weak.
Maybe the better question to start with is this, why don’t followers of Jesus take prayer seriously? We will all agree that Jesus prayed a lot. We will all agree that God asks us to pray all throughout the scripture. We will all agree that prayer has power to effect change and impact the people around us. But at the end of the day, even though we say we believe all of those things, we don’t pray more than a few minutes at best.
Why don’t we pray? Is it that we have fooled ourselves into believing that we believe in prayer, when in fact we do not? Is it that we are just too busy and can’t figure out how to either carve out time for prayer or build prayer into our lives? Is it that we feel like our prayers will not be effective so we are sabotaging ourselves and robbing ourselves of God’s blessings? Do we think we are unworthy to speak with our Creator? Or, are we simply forgetful? My guess is that the answer to most of those questions is yes to varying degrees for most of us.
So, how do we overcome our fears, laziness, feelings of inadequacy and general busyness so that we can take prayer seriously? I think we start with recognizing that we don’t really take prayer as seriously as the Lord that we claim to follow. Then, we ask ourselves, what is prayer?
Let me suggest this response to that question. Prayer is a spiritual act of being mindfully in the presence of God, of speaking with Him, exposing our hearts to Him, petitioning Him on behalf of those we love, and most of all of being changed by Him to conform to His likeness.
I am in the process of learning to take prayer more seriously. It is difficult, intimidating, sometimes frustrating, and in the end it will be life changing. I would love to share my journey with you and encourage you to ask God how He would have you take prayer more seriously in your life as well. It will be worth it.