What then is prayer? (part 1)

“Pray by myself, Mom?”

“Yes, go ahead.” And with that four-year-old Kia bowed his head, folded his hands, scrunched up his eyes and prayed, thanking God for his breakfast. It was a sight that makes a mom’s heart swell with thanksgiving and hope – hope that at even a young age, prayer is becoming central to his life.

And yet, prayer is so much bigger than praying before meals, 911-prayers in times of crisis, and the occasional “thanks God!” when things go as we desire. I’ve never been much of a pray-er, until this semester. I’ve desired to do so, but never quite knew how, without simply saying longer prayers before meals, making more 911-emergency pleas, and giving thanks more frequently.

Challenged to consider and engage with prayer in new and different ways, I found myself often asking, “What then is prayer?” And my answer kept expanding and growing. Prayer is more than the words we say. It is greater than what we do with our hands and our eyes. It is how we live our lives and how we love others. Prayer, it seems, is about Scripture, Worship, Silence, Life and Love. It is these five themes that not only comprise my understanding of prayer and summarize this semester’s journey, but also chart the course for my continued engagement with prayer.

God’s inspired Word are words of life to all those that read, study and apply them. Yet how powerful they also become when they are spoken, sung and prayed aloud, and offered back to the Author Himself. Scriptures are a rich source of wealth and insight and by meditating on them either formally or imaginatively, we begin to mine their depths. Why does the Lord’s Prayer come so quickly to our praying lips, and yet other passages remain untapped and unused? Has our drastic swing away from pre-recorded prayers in an attempt to embrace spontaneity compromised the quality, depth and meaningfulness of our prayers? For me, it had. In God’s Holy Word we can find passages concerning most any situation, challenge or emotion, and put word to our deepest needs and groanings. And so Scripture becomes prayer.

Worship is literally ascribing worth to the Lord, and this then is also prayer. As we offer thoughts of adoration to our King, we engage in prayer that is all about Him, instead of about ourselves. Our prayers of blessing, asking Him to fill our spaces and places with His presence, invite Him into our realm and reality, allowing all that we do to fully become prayer. And as such, nature walks, writing poetry, dancing, cooking and even playing volleyball become prayer. We emulate all of creation as it shows forth God’s glory and righteousness worshipping its Creator.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.  Psalm 19:1-4

“What then is prayer?” will continue tomorrow and consider how Silence and Life can also become prayer.