Prayer – Part I
This was suggested to me almost a year ago by a friend of mine, to make a series of blog posts exploring the subject of prayer. When I think about it, it has to be a series because prayer is one of those intricate, complex, and deeply mysterious subjects that it seems almost insulting to dedicate one post to it, especially on a blog as trivial as this one. The questions that often come to mind even for the most committed of Christians might include:
“What is prayer?”
“Why do we pray?”
“How do we pray?”
“How often do we pray?”
“What difference does it make?”
And so on. I can’t promise to explore all of these questions in the order I’ve just presented them there, nor can I promise that each of these posts will be particularly substantive. That is just as well, however, since I want to be explaining less of my own opinion and more of possibilities, ideas, and how they relate to our own lives as Christians. In others words: Expect less of my usual “essay-type” posts and more musings to hopefully inspire discussion.
I suppose in a very naive and simple way, I take prayer to be communion with God. I have often felt it important to make a distinction between “communication” and “communion.” To commune with someone signifies a familiar relationship, a bond, intimacy, and closeness. It is distinct from communication because communication, while important in any relationship, is not necessarily restricted to the bounds of a close relationship. I think of prayer in terms not just of speaking to God, but also putting myself before the presence of God and in turn allowing His presence in my life. If I had to think from the top of my head an answer to the question “What is prayer?” I would probably have to say in concise (and there insufficient) terms that it is the drawing close of oneself to God, so that He may in turn draw close to us.
In this sense, I am incline to think that the questions “What is prayer?” and “Why do we pray?” are inextricable linked to each other. It seems to me that they both have the same answer, that if prayer is communion with God then we would naturally feel a compulsion to pray as the expression of the love we have for Him. To get personal for a minute, it has often been the case that, shamefully, I look at prayer as a chore. I might think to myself that I haven’t prayed for a while, or else resign myself to the notion that I had better pray in the same way I might think of, say, getting the grocery shopping done. Then I think to myself, what a disgusting attitude to have! What is sweeter than a close, personal, and fully-reciprocated relationship with the living God, the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer of all things? Why is it the case that I should look at being in the presence of Majesty itself as being a chore to begrudge? Lord, have mercy. I should instead be longing for prayer, for my time in the embrace of God, just as a lover longs to be with their beloved.
Of course, I suspect that I’m not the only Christian who struggles with this mindset, nor must I be the member of a minority in the Church. I have spoken to many friends and peers, some with much deeper faith than myself, who tell me that at times they find it very difficult to settle into the quiet presence of the Lord. Could this be the result of errant thinking on our part, a disordering of our priorities, the fruit of sin, or something else? Perhaps a little of everything?
In any case, the short answer to the questions of what prayer is and why we participate in it, might be reduced to love: Prayer is but one act of faithfully loving God, and we pray because we love God. At least, that is how I see things myself.
In upcoming posts, I hope to lend a little exploration as to the nature of prayer, how we pray, and what prayer actually achieves. In the meantime, all comments are welcome.