Luis of Granada, a 16th century Christian spiritual writer from Spain, wrote, “Prayer, properly speaking, is a petition which we make to God for the things which pertain to our salvation; but it is also taken in another, broader sense to mean any raising of the heart to God.” He makes a good point. While we often think of prayer as asking, and we most often ask when we pray, prayer is actually any time we converse with God — so we may be thanking Him, praising Him, pouring out our hearts to Him, or even sitting in silence before Him.
The apostle Paul told us to pray always. (Philippians 4:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:17) Because we do a lot more than think about how much we want things and need things as we go about our days, Paul must have meant that we should be in constant contact with God about what’s going on in our lives, our minds and our souls.
Prayer is the act of conversing with God.
Whenever we’re in conversation with God we’re at prayer, whether we’re in church reciting the Lord’s Prayer, going around the circle in youth group, driving in our cars or standing at the top of a black-diamond ski run. We can pray any place or time.
Hearing God in return is even trickier because God rarely chooses to speak to us in an audible voice. If you tell some people you’ve heard God speaking to you, they’ll try to get you locked up; yet when you listen to some people, they’re constantly saying, “The Lord told me to. ..”
What do we make of this difference of opinion?
The overwhelming teachings of the Bible are that God does answer prayer and that He’s a full partner in our prayer-conversations. He does not, however, talk like you and I do. God responds through our prayers by using the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin and to move us to action; God answers prayer by speaking though the body of Christ, our fellow Christians; and God surely speaks to us through His holy Word, the Bible, His ultimate offering to the conversation.
Christians understand that God is a personal Being who takes interest in the prayers of His people. The Lord is invested in the lives of His people and is so concerned with the fate of His chosen people that He sent His Son to become a human:
[Christ Jesus] had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death — and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion. (Philippians 2:6-8)
The God of Christians actually walked in our sandals for 33 years. I, for one, find this extremely comforting. The fact is, I’d much rather pray to a God who is humble enough to leave His heavenly perch to experience the joys and trials I experience. I join the Christians who through the centuries have found God so approachable because He met us at our point of need.
This confirms two things about our Lord: He cares for us. This truth gives prayer its purpose. We worship and pray to the One who created the universe — including each one of us. He has a special interest in our lives, and He desires that we stay in close contact with Him.
God wants to hear our prayers. The profound nature of this concept can hardly be overstated. Never in the history of humankind has any other religion believed in a God so personally connected with His people. We can pray with great confidence because the true God, the living God, Yahweh, the Creator of the universe, hears our prayers.
Adapted from “Ask, Seek, Knock: Prayers to Change Your Life.” NavPress.com