What Is Prayer, Really?

prayer-on-my-knees4In this post-9/11 world, you hear a lot about prayer.  The power of prayer, prayer this, prayer that.  But really, what is this “prayer” thing all about anyway?  Sure, it’s talking to God, but is that it?  Or could it possibly be something more?

I was raised to pray before each meal and before I went to bed each night.  I still do that, thank God for each meal and a short little prayer before drifting to sleep each night.  Somewhere along the line, though, it just became words.  I began to feel, as the pastor at my church put it, “as if my prayers were just bouncing off the ceiling.”

It’s like the scene at the end of the movie Bruce Almighty where God tells Bruce to say a prayer, and the first thing he does is the “Miss America prayer” of peace on earth, feed the hungry, etc.  God tells Bruce that his prayer is all well and good, but that he needs to really pray.  So Bruce prays for his girlfriend, not that she takes him back, but that she be happy.  Bruce prays an unselfish prayer, praying about someone else with no more thought of what benefit it might be for him.

In Acts 2:42, Luke lays out the four foundation pieces for a successful Christian community.  These fundamental elements are not from a model of what should be, but of how the Christian community of which he was a part was.  One of those four essential parts is praying together.  Did you catch that?  One of the basic foundation blocks of any Christian community is that its members pray together.  But why together?  Why does Jesus say that where two or more are gathered together there He’ll be?

The more I think about it, the more it becomes clear to me what Jesus’ reasoning for teaching us to pray like this.  When I am praying in a small group or one on one with someone else, I’m not praying for me.  I’m praying that the person I’m with has success in life, is able to make it through a stress at work, a happy marriage, a sick relative.  I’m praying for that person, but what I’m not praying for is myself.  I believe that Jesus wanted us to pray together because, by asking that God be with those around us, we in turn receive a blessing.  In John 17 Jesus, just before He died, prayed long and hard for His friends, and then He prays for all of us.  Here He was about to die, and He prays for you and me.

I know that for me, when I sat down and really looked at it, I am praying for myself all the time.  God, please give me this, grant me that, and so on.  It’s like sometimes I think God is a magic genie there to grant my every wish.  But by praying for others, it becomes less about what I want and more about what they need.  Does that mean I should never ask God for anything?  No!  But it does mean that when I do ask Him for something, it will be for something I actually need, not some frivolous thing I want to make myself look cool.

By praying for others, we begin to realize what’s really important in life.  I challenge you to look at your own prayer life.  Does it look like Bruce’s selfish prayer, or the unselfish prayer of Jesus for His friends?

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” – James 5:16

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In reckless pursuit of GOD, 24/7.

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