What Exactly Is Prayer?

@Interested_in_Prayer @Bible_Memorization_Group

I wanted to start a new thread as for some of you, you are involved in the memorization portion and others, the prayer portion. So as we all pray, what does prayer mean? Is it asking for what I want? Something I do and my heart is not in it? What exactly is it? This is not something to spark communication. I am serious as I seek to know what it is. It is a mystery and the Lord commands it but what exactly is it?

You don’t need to respond with a full definition but it would be great to hear from many as to what it is - or is not - to you. With a response from many, we could get a bigger picture to what it is.

I need your help on this one!

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Hi Tim!

Well, the way I think of prayer, at least somewhat, is through how an earthly parent relates to their own child. Most of the time the parent can tell when their child wants something, or something is bothering them. And, although the parent can act without having the child verbalize the issue, I think the parents do find themselves wanting to hear the child communicate their feelings directly. I think parents see it as a sign of maturity when a child can express themselves, instead of them having to act unilaterally.

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Great analogy Jonathan. It’s interesting that you mentioned that as in prayer today I was realizing that I was like a child on his Father’s lap but in my case, i didn’t need to correctly articulate what was on my heart because He knows better than I do.

If He knows, why does He want us to pray? Our prayers don’t cure anyone or empowers the Lord so He lays it on our hearts and then He does it. Why do we pray?

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I see prayer as an activity along with reading the bible as activities that truly help to build our relationship with GOD. I see it as the foundation of our communication with GOD. It is also a great opportunity to lay all that is on our minds at GOD’s feet. Prayer is also the most critical part of our spiritual life @Tim_Ramey

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Good points Jason - accentuating prayer as a tool to build our relationship with God.

What happens in prayer? In Colossians 4:2 it talks of us being watchful in prayer. What are we watching for? Do you think that, since the Lord knows everything, Christians don’t often pray because we think God will do what He wants to do anyway? Do we pray wrong? What is it mean to have the Spirit intercede for us with sighs too deep for words?

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Tim, I believe you know what prayer is because you pray. But the
first thing that came to my mind was John 17. Jesus is our
intercessor and so we also intercede according to His will and
with His words over the saints, not just here on earth but also in
heaven (prayer is eternal) when we will join with that great cloud
of witnesses mentioned in Hebrews 12:1. These are living words I
ask God to blanket over His saints, like you, still here on earth
as I lay my hand on their names in my journal, asking for His
strength to fulfill these words in their lives. For His glory, our
unity and blessing.

  Prayer is joining my heart to God's heart, in communion with Him,

knowing Him, praising Him and agreeing with Him for eternal things
such as salvation for others, His return, thanking God for the
glorious mystery of Him coming to earth in Christ and asking for
God’s grace on the saints - filling them with His mighty, glorious
strength, keeping their feet on the narrow road, delivering us all
from evil. I also thought of Ps. 51. Prayer is calling on God with
a reverent heart and in deep sincerity asking for forgiveness of
sins and a repentant heart. Just as the repentant tax collector
did, even beating his chest.

  Prayer is asking Holy Spirit to explain scripture to me and how

it can be actioned in my life by words and deeds that will give
glory to Christ.

Gee Tim, I could go on. Sorry this got long. Someone once said,

“saints believe that through prayer we grasp eternity.” I could have
left it at that.

Bless your sweet soul in Christ

Donna
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Hello Tim,

What is prayer? What does it mean?

There have been some meaningful responses already.

This is a topic that is really important to me…because it has proven to be a significant part of my experience of God.

Let’s start with the word …

This is a verse I usually pray, some where in the beginning of coming to God in prayer…

Why? Because it reminds me of the the truth and challenges my heart and mind to believe…to have faith…not in myself, but, in God…whom I am coming to.

Hebrews 11:6
“Without faith it is impossible to be well pleasing to him, for whoever comes to God must believe… (believe what?) that He exists, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him” .

I pray this verse…
I pray for faith…to believe that He is…
(and that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him)…
I pray for grace to diligently seek Him!

Do you believe in the deepest recesses of your soul that He exists?
If you do…He has promised to reward those whom seek Him…

When I am tempted to doubt…or despair…
This is another verse spoken by the Lord Jesus…
which gives me courage to persevere in prayer …
“Men ought always to pray and not to faint” Luke 18:1

If I am uncertain, fearful, insecure…not knowing what to do or where to go…
If I lack wisdom…The scripture tells me:
James 5:1
“If any of you lacks wisdom let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally and reproaches not and it shall be given him.”

“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom and with you getting get understanding.” Prov. 4:5

How to pray?
This is also important…because in a culture of distraction…having a quiet, private place to go to pray in is very difficult.

In prayer we are seeking a private audience with the Sovereign Lord of Heaven and earth. (You would not come into the presence of an earthly sovereign…rushed, unprepared, distracted, unfocused, insincerely etc…)

Matt 6:6 “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

We have the example of Jesus himself…

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”

Mark 1:35
“Then Jesus got up early in the morning when it was still very dark, departed, and went out to a deserted place, and there he spent time in prayer.”

I believe these and many other scripture…They encourage faith…
The scriptures are full of rich promises, which encourage a child of God to trust his/her Heavenly Father to do right.

Prayer is where we experience God’s activity and agency in our lives and in the lives of others.
We are built up in the faith when we pray and God in His grace answers our prayers

Prayer is where we development intimacy and friendship with God.
In this world, who do we tell our deepest, darkest secrets to? Who do we share our burdens and sorrows with? Who do we turn to for help and support in overwhelming circumstances? In this world, we turn to our spouse, or our very best friend…because we have confidence in them…that they will not scorn us, or betray us. If we trust earthly souls…and have confidence that they will be for us and not against us…How much more so, the Lord!?

Prayer is also a tool which God uses to reveal ourselves to ourselves.
When we pray we should be open to the Word and the Spirit searching our hearts … to see if there is some wicked way in us.
If there is …then, we have the opportunity to bring it into the light…to acknowledge it…to repent of it and seek cleansing and deliverance from it.

Hebrews 4: 12
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Let me give an example of this…
Say I am praying…either according to a reminder list I’m using or the Spirit of God shines a light on my inner thoughts/feelings about someone or something… You know, the type of inner workings that I want to hide from…To hide from my own heart as well as from God.
Prayer is then working to sanctify me by the word and Spirit…
God wants me to see it, to own it, to acknowledge it…
Not because He doesn’t know it already…but, so I will know it…and “watch and pray” against bitterness, malice, envy, pride, hardness of heart, impurity, uncleanness, unrighteousness, partiality, etc…

The singing of hymns and songs…are intended to be prayers as well.
This is one big reason why I miss the singing of hymns in church …
Hymns are congregational prayers…we sing…They unify our hearts and minds through the words to focus on the truth…

I have been a believer for almost 50 years. Prayer has been integral to my experience of God. While I still face trials and tribulations…I know there is nothing…absolutely nothing that I cannot bring to God in prayer.

Hebrews 4: 13
“And there is no creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of him with whom we have to do.”

It behooves us to have this transparency of heart and mind in our prayer life…
God delights in the sincere, humble, contrite heart. He doesn’t despise it.

Why would we not entrust our all to Him… ? He has shown himself to be yea and amen.

If God before us…who can be against us? Not even ourselves if we humbly, earnestly seek Him in faith.

Finally, let me share a personal experience of God’s faithfulness in prayer. When I was young I had some serious challenges…Despair threatened to destroy me physically and spiritually.
But, the Lord kept me through the truth of his Word…and worked in and through my seeking Him in prayer for answers. It took a long time to get answers and understanding…but, there was no doubting His answers when they unfolded.

In 2012, I took a Graduate Certificate Course in Complex Traumatic Stress and Child Sexual Abuse Intervention. I did this to augment my work role because I was convinced many of the adolescents I was working with were suffering based on these factors. (God had already worked an understanding of these things in my heart and mind…in answer to prayer …before I took the course. But, I needed the educational documentation of my knowledge in these matters.)
Toward the end of the course, I realized a wonderful fact…
God was still answering prayers I had prayed in my early 20’s, as a broken, hopeless, helpless young person.
2012-13 … 40 years later…
He was still answering those prayers.
I could only praise Him for his faithfulness…in the full light of present knowledge …the answers provided…to a time that was so dark. A time when I had no light or understanding.

Now, I have God’s affirmation…in my soul…and I have educational affirmation as well.

I could witness to God’s faithfulness in prayer forever…and I will throughout all eternity.

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OK Donna and Billie - thanks for your input but I want to address things as they appeared in your posts.

First Donna… No, I don’t know what prayer is. I switch on the light switch but that doesn’t mean I know how electricity works. I pray but I don’t understand it. I often wonder if I need to learn more because maybe I’m not praying right. Answered prayer is not up to me - Jesus does the work. Yet, if I harbor sin He won’t answer so is there something blocking the way in that I keep praying for situations - people in this group’s children, cancer, marriages, etc but the list keeps growing? Am I doing something wrong, Holy Spirit?

We need to pray according to His will. Am I missing it? Is, as you say Donna, my heart in communion with Him? I think so but why does so little change? How I want Him to be glorified. How I desire that others would come to saving knowledge of Him, yet people carry on blindly.

Your post was so good, helpful and sweet-spirited but I want to make sure I’m not missing something because prayer for me Donna feels like tossing the dice. I shake it and sees where things land. I feel like I need to have more confidence in Him. Memorizing scripture has been so wonderful but more convicting since it seems I am missing something as compared to all of the promises He gives. Thanks Donna, I don’t refute a word you said except the part that says that I know what prayer is!

Billie, in answer to you…

The Hebrews 11:6 verse is a super suggestion.

If there is one thing that I believe is that Jesus is the Truth. Absolutely. His ways are higher than mine so I don’t get it all. Thus, from any critical point, maybe I’m not getting it. His reward to me would be the salvation of so many siblings, friends, children etc that I pray for to bring glory to Him. As grace extends to more and more people it extends thanksgiving to the glory of God. Why then nothing? This has gone on for years. I’m purposely trying to be pushy and forthright because I want to know if there is something that I don’t have right.

This is how I pray now that I have found to be helpful to me. As I memorized scripture, I found it was helpful to bike and say them out loud. So when I pray, I pray out loud. Otherwise my mind starts to think about other things. And when I pray out loud, I have to be coherent and hear myself pray. As I do so, an answer may come before it is out of my mouth. But when it is to pray for another, I ask that I am praying for them as He wills. But my prayer for individuals go on and on…

I have been a believer for almost 50 years as well. That’s why I’m disappointed in my prayer life. My heart for Jesus has grown over those years but my prayer life results seem no different. For the first time, as I mentioned how I pray above, I love coming to prayer like I never have before. But the results are the same.

Billie and Donna, you have excellent points. I love how thorough both of you were. Where do you think I miss it? I don’t see it as I am letting God down for anytime that He convicts me, it is freeing and He never labels any sin as letting Him down. But I want to be effective as long as I journey on this earth.

I’ve gone on too long but in another post, I also want to ask you a question about intercession.

Please feel free to let me have it because I am not doubting God because He is the definition of love, faithfulness, etc, I just wonder where I may be missing it.

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A very good question Tim,

For me prayer is something which I can do publically or in private and no-one can stop me from praying in silence. For me I sometimes struggle to discern His voice.

Below are my notes on prayer, which you may find useful:

7. Prayer

P = pray

U = until

S = something

H = happens

We need to translate our theology into prayer.

Is God First

F = First in my finances

I = First in my interests

R = First in my relationships

S = First in my schedule

T = First in my troubles

We shouldn’t try and pray like other people, but we should learn to pray in our own style using our methods which suit our personality and character.

When we pray together we’re in partnership with God as his church and in partnership with each other.

Prayer is rebellion against the evil status quo of the world - and they are not in vain, for that are as “church-bels beyond the stars heard” and indeed are “reversed thunder”. Thunder is an expression of the awesome power of God, but prayer somehow harnesses that power so that our petitions are not heard in heaven as whispers but as crack, boom and roar. Prayer changes things. Timothy Keller (Prayer Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God - Pg 30-31)

Praying with Passion

Hebrews Ch5 v 7

Jesus would pray prior to doing miracles etc. Miracles would happen when he prayed to his Father. Jesus would pray in a loud voice with tears with passion, so if we’re passionate about an issue shouldn’t we raise our game to?

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Thank you @David_Cieszynski! I love this!

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Just look at all of the wisdom in these posts. What I plan to do, is after more ideas are submitted, I will compile them and ask the Lord to speak to me on each of them.

I need to add another thing after praying this morning. If any of you read my posts and come away feeling discouraged by prayer, I truly am sorry. Jesus is faithful and trustworthy or I’d have left Him long ago. I’m just wondering honestly if I’M not getting something because it can’t be Him. So please don’t see my posts as a push towards seeing that possibly God is not faithful. I’m just being dead honest as I say that God is ALWAYS faithful. If something is off, it has to be me. This is my exploration in hearing from Him as you all offer your input, which I so value.

While you are at it, pick up some of these gems that my fellow saints have laid at my feet!

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Hi, so many good things to ponder in all these answers. I think everyone wonders about prayer. I read something once and I can’t remember where the quote was but it said “just as a small child cannot paint a bad picture ( in a loving parents eyes) so we cannot pray a bad prayer.” I think the honest speaking to our Lord is what He asks. The reveal of our heart reveals things to us. Results are not the measurement of prayer. If we look into Scripture we see many who pray, like Paul, for something to be removed, yet Jesus says no, my strength is sufficient for you. My prayer sometimes is simply “God, it’s hard down here and You know this, I have no power to change this so please show me what to do.”
Tim, I don’t think you are doing it wrong.
Gods examples of Job, Joseph many years in prison, Jesus praying that the cup pass…examples that though some prayers are answered in the way we want and some are not. I think it’s ok to live in the mystery of that, just knowing that He does know. I don’t think there is any formula to prayer, simply a revealing of your heart and another step forward in Trusting Him.

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Kathy, thanks for such an encouraging and provocative post. As I said, I’m going to scoop all of these gems up and I know that the Holy Spirit has much to say to me. Thanks for steering me in the direction of Truth!

I love your comment about there is no formula to prayer. I wish I could highlight that and send it to everyone in Connect! There is no template for prayer. I love how Jesus creatively works it uniquely for each of us. Having said that, I would not ask what anyone else thinks if I did not believe that we are to glean from what others have to say. I have much to learn.

May you remarks strengthen your walk with Jesus, Kathy!

Speaking of prayer, today is Monday so we are supposed to update on our prayer requests for our 2:30 EST prayer:

  • I still am praying for my wife to come to JESUS (she is still involved with the lesbian activity)

  • I am still praying for the oldest children to come to CHRIST.

  • I am still praying that the youngest children stay knowing and loving CHRIST.

  • I am still praying that I am in GOD’s purpose and rise to being priest for my family.

  • I am still praying for the unification of my family in peace and in GOD’s purpose

  • I am still praying that I will find a job and shelter near my family in such a manner that I have the resources to take care of all my family including my parents & In-Laws.

  • I am still praying that I am guided in GOD’s wisdom and guidance in all the above and all I do.

• For me to have the wisdom, guidance & strength to fulfil JESUS’ purposes for me, including being priest of my family.

• For my wife and I to be back together and no longer separated.

• For my entire family to be in the purpose of JESUS CHRIST

• For JESUS’ favour as HE sees fit.

I AM THANKFUL

  • For the protection & comfort JESUS has given in this time.
  • For the car operating more reliably (still a lot of work to be done, but more reliable)
  • For the opportunities to interact more and more with CHRIST followers.

@kelelek @Catherine @sig @Tim_Ramey @Lakshmismehta @David_Cieszynski @Billie @darlene

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You asked what prayer means. I don’t think that there is a meaning, it is a conversation. Not just any conversation though. This is a conversation with the all knowing God. While asking is a part of this conversation it is only a small portion. The only thing I know to do is follow the guide that Jesus laid out in Matthew 6:9-14.

I heard an explanation that went something like as follows.

Our father which art in heaven, - Position
Hollowed be thy name. - Reverence
Thy kingdom come, - Mission
Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, - Submission
Give us this day our daily bread, - Provision
And forgive us our debts - Forgiveness
As we have forgiven others - Transformation
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. - Protection

While I cannot explain much of the how or the mystery of prayer. I can follow the example of Jesus. Sorry my answer is not very much of an answer.

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@JasonWalker, I copied your post above and put it in the prayer thread for the week so that all of the prayer requests are listed there. Hope that was OK.

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Definitely

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Coniah, what do you mean that you really didn’t give me an answer to what prayer was? You have some excellent points. Your explanation from another was thought provoking as well. However, I liked best that you said it was a conversation with the all knowing God. My biggest problem with the conversation is hearing and I feel that I do give Him a chance by not talking all of the time!

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@Tim_Ramey
Thank you for the questions in the first place (I forgot that bit at the start of my last post.)

I have a hard time with the hearing and I spend most of my time talking. Fortunately we have a loving and patient God who is willing to let us talk and interrupt us when needed.

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Prayer can be somewhat of a mystery. We pray even though we know we may not get the outcome WE desire. Prayer is what keeps us seeking after God, hoping to become more Christ like and learning to pray for Gods will.
Where salvation is concerned, we know that it is God’s desire that ALL will be saved but, we also know that God will not interfere with free will. Knowing this, we may ask ourselves, why pray? If God has already set a time for everything. If God determines what WILL be done, why pray???
First, because we are instructed to. Second, I believe it is because we realize that we are a part of Gods plan. We are the “hands and feet” of God here on earth, and that He will use us to carry out His plan if we are willing.
When we pray for souls, we are in agreement with the will of our Creator and through prayer, we are petitioning Him for “Divine intervention.” Not to interfere with free will, but to be given the wisdom to “persuade” or, praying that “something” or someone else will ignite a spark which will lead these lost souls to belief in Christ Jesus.
(I have read that some view this as a violation of free will. But I don’t see that. If you are trying to persuade a person, they still have the free will to choose.)
We also pray for healing. Healing of the body, healing of the mind, healing of a broken heart, addiction, deception etc. Healing of a family, community or a Nation.
Most always, we are praying for complete healing from suffering of any form. Although I do tend to pray this way, I realize that sometimes, suffering is used for Gods glory. I don’t like it or even fully understand it and I certainly do not want to suffer, but I have witnessed Gods glory being revealed through it.
I also pray for personal victories. Again, I realize I may not get the outcome I desire but I am hopeful. As long as I am willing to understand that my will is not always Gods will and that the answer may be “no,” I see this as harmless.
Prayer is interesting. I have found that my prayers have changed. God is molding me to be more like Him and that means my prayer life will become more “selfless.” I have a long way to go but I have seen change.
In closing, I see prayer as hope. Hope that one day soon, as the Bible tells us, All will see. We know that Jesus Christ is THE answer so we pray that “All” will be released from the deception of dark forces and “ALL” will choose to live forever in the presence of our Creator. Even though we realize that some will not choose, we still hope and this hope gives us perseverance…
Perseverance to continue praying to the Author and lover of our souls :heart:

Just some thoughts of the way I currently see prayer :thought_balloon:

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