BY PHIL BONAPARTE | November 10th, 2017
What is prayer? This is a serious question that I ask myself all the time. We are taught to get on our knees to display surrender. Say “Lord” or “God” after every other word because who wants to hear you say “umm” when you’re trying to find the “right words?” Oh, and speaking of doing things correctly, what about the thought that prayer is designed only for those that are, as the Christian folk like to say, “living right?”
Prayer is defined as a devout petition, praise, thanks, etc. to (God or an object of worship) according to the online Dictionary (because no one uses the physical ones anymore). Christians like to define it as a conversation with God…but is it really that simple? What I’m really asking is why do we not treat it that simply?
We all are at fault for trying to do too much and too little when it comes to prayer. Too much as we try and portray ourselves as being super spiritual, using words that we barely understand (or even say sometimes) while mimicking the way we’ve heard so-and-so pray; praying about things that are irrelevant at the moment with that awkward and emotional tone of voice used so you can meet the 500-word quota necessary for a prayer when we’re just trying to bless this nacho and cheese appetizer from Friday’s.
If we really want to understand what prayer is, I think we need to look at the man that was deemed a man after God’s own heart by God Himself. David’s writing in the book of Psalms is nothing but prayers. Some of them speak on his relationship and dependency on God (Psalms 27, 63, 84, 131) while others are borderline cuss out sessions (and yes, towards God) due to the sense of separation and the trials David was going through (Psalms 10, 13, 39, 88). Now do not get me wrong, there are prayers that can be specific to a situation like the prayer of Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:10) or the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) which is in direct correlation to the Ark of the Covenant (with more info on that to come).
There are times when we should go down on our knees and cry out to the Father and spend every ounce of energy in the moment like Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46) or do nothing but say God’s name because we don’t know what else to do. But, in saying all of this, we can clearly see how diverse prayer is…so why don’t we practice it that way?
In 1 Thessalonians, we are told to “rejoice always, pray continually, [and] give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for [us] in Christ Jesus.” Prayer is dialogue with the most important person in our lives. It doesn’t have to only happen first thing in the morning with a sprinkle of prayers before meals throughout the day. It doesn’t have to be us just telling God all the things we want like we’re reading our wish list to the mall Santa. It most definitely shouldn’t only be a last resort when we are in a time of need and going through stuff. Our conversations with God should be just as diverse and done as often, if not more, than any other because Christ just wants a relationship with us.
It’s cool to laugh with him when irony smacks you in the face or apologize because you had one too many drinks...as you continue to have one too many drinks. It’s alright to get right in His face because you’re so angry that you’re shaking or to take a moment just to say, “thank you.” Timothy Keller says that “prayer is the only entryway into genuine self-knowledge…the reordering of our loves.” The closer we get to God, the closer we get to understanding who we are in this world. The closer we get to properly prioritizing the things we deem important. The closer we get to the coolest cat out there: Jesus Christ.
Phil is the Executive Pastor at New Hope COG and one of the founders of coyl.com He is a published author and speaker that loves anime, throwing weights around, and spending quality time with quality people.