Editor’s note: Join disciples around the world in January as we devote ourselves to prayer and action. Along with the 31 Days of Prayer series, we are publishing a few additional resources to help strengthen our prayer lives. Email email@example.com if you know of something we should include. We look forward to an amazing year as we seek God together!
Let us start with two questions:
Either write down your answers to these questions or at least take the time to voice your answers to yourself.
I. What is prayer?
Think about your prayer life. Is your prayer talking to God or is it talking with God?
For myself, as I grew up as a Christian, the model for prayer was what I saw in a public prayer. When people are praying in public, obviously they talk. If they stop talking, then the prayer is over. So, to me, prayer is talking to God, or at least that is how I viewed it for many years.
But there are two problems with this.
Romans 8:26: “ In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will .”
Think about that moment when you communicated your deepest desires and feelings to someone who you deeply love. It might be that look you exchanged with your spouse when the two of you first realized you are in love with each other. That look said it all. Words simply do not express our most profound feelings. Prayer is not just talking. Prayer is feeling. Prayer is receiving a message. The Holy Spirit helps is to express those deepest feelings to God. And this is a two-way street. He also communicates God’s deep desire for us. Sometimes in our prayer we need to stop talking. We need to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
There is a spiritual discipline that most of us have not developed, and I will add myself to the list of novices in this area. It is meditation. Prayer may be talking, but it is also meditation. Meditation is not just for our Hindu friends. We need to take it back for use in Christian prayer. David meditated, not by saying a mantra, but by contemplating God’s glory. In Psalm 119:27 he tells us that “I will meditate on your wonders.” In Psalm 77:9, Asaph tells us, “I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.” This cannot be done while talking. In Psalm 48:9 the Sons of Korah tell us that, “Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.” Prayer that God seeks from us includes meditation.
What is prayer? It is a lot of things. To break it down to just one of them is a mistake, but one of those things prayer involves is communicating on the deepest possible level our feelings and desires to God and God doing the same with us. Let us consider prayer, not just as talking, but as feeling and meditating. Let us consider the role the Holy Spirit plays in this and let us consider being trained to be still—to stop talking and to meditate on God—on his wonders, on his works and on his unfailing love.
II. Why do we pray?
John Oakes 12/6/17