Prayer is the way in which we open ourselves up to God so that we can be touched, awakened, realigned, and healed. Prayer is an ongoing conversation with God as we open ourselves up to His transforming work and hope for all things that are made new in Christ.
Prayer is what God does in us. The part we play has much more to do with consent than it does initiative. We consent to the invitation from God for a loving encounter with Him. Prayer is speaking to God either silently or with words. It can be petitions and intercessions that we have crafted ourselves or formal prayers written by others and read.
Prayer is listening to God’s personal word to us from a passage of Scripture.
Prayer is allowing music to draw our spirits toward God’s Spirit.
Prayer is affirming our beliefs by reciting the creeds.
Prayer is reviewing our day and noticing where God has been present with us.
Prayer is meditating on the Word of God and thinking about its meaning for us.
Prayer is allowing the hunger we experience in a fast to draw our attention to God.
Prayer is thinking on all of our blessings and responding to God with gratitude.
Prayer is the celebration of communion.
Prayer is confessing our sins and asking God for forgiveness.
Prayer is sitting in silence and allowing our hearts to be drawn to God.
Prayer is allowing our hearts to praise in wordless prayer as we see the magnificence of God in a sunset, flower, or storm.
Genuine prayer always begins with a heart that is oriented toward God. Without a heart that is open to God in faith and belief, what we are doing may look like prayer, but it is not genuine Christian prayer. If we want to grow in prayer we must learn how to open our hearts to God.
Prayer is communion and conversation with God. “Communion includes conversation but is much broader. Because it involves union, not just closeness and connection, it entails much more intimacy than mere conversation,” (David Benner, Opening to God, p. 21). True communion is an intimacy that is based on our mystical union with Christ, at this moment right now, not some time in the future. Our experience of our union with Christ may be limited; nonetheless, the union is real. The communion we experience in prayer is real. This communion in prayer is the vital force that changes us from the inside out.
Prayer is not just what we do; it is also a way of being. As we commune with God we come to know and trust God’s love for us, and in return our love for God grows. The more we are grounded in God’s love the more prayer begins to form our hearts. This is confirmed in Paul’s words from Ephesians chapter 3.
“For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled with all the fullness of God, “ (Ephesians 3:14-19).
Prayer is communion with and a personal encounter with the source of all love. It is a relationship; it is accepting God’s invitation to a personal encounter.
The first stage of growth in prayer is to know God by meditating on the Scriptures. The second stage of growth is the transition from knowledge to experience. This is where the truth we know evolves into deep heart knowing. We experience the joy of just being with the Lord. In the third stage of growth we may experience periods of deadening or desolation. This dry deadness has a divine purpose to teach us to see by faith- not just by sight – so that we depend on what we know rather than what we see or feel.
How would you describe your prayer time with the Lord? Do you have an ongoing communion with God throughout your day? If not, consider how you might deepen your relationship with God by including some new disciplines of prayer. How might your prayer experience change if your times of formal prayer included time for just listening?