WHAT IS PRAYER? People from the beginning of time have prayed. Although it involves accessing the supernatural, it is one of the most natural things that we as humans can do. All religions advocate it in some form or another. Some have defined prayer as simply “talking to God.” I can agree with that statement, but the biblical picture of prayer takes it one step further.
When it comes to the Bible’s portrait of prayer, the narrative of the scriptures gives us another perspective. Prayer is not only talking to God, but it is also hearing God talk back. In other words, prayer is a conversation. A more visual analogy is that prayer is a two way street. We do not just talk to God in a monologue; prayer is not a one-way conversation. Prayer is also being silent before God and listening for his voice. We can say that prayer is a two way street because on one side our petitions and our problems go to God, and on the other side his answers and guidance come to us.
The voice of God that we hear is not necessarily audible, although we do not want to count that out entirely because God works supernaturally and can do the impossible. More often than not, the voice of God comes through the words of Scripture. It is a confirmation, a repetition, or a fuller meaning of what God has already spoken in Scripture, applied to a particular individual or community. Even the answers to prayer are just confirmation of what Scripture already says God does, such as heal, provide, forgive, and bless. It’s all there. God’s voice is sometimes heard through the voices of others. Other times, it is heard through the elements of nature. The one thing that is for certain is that prayer is a reciprocal act.
Prayer to God is intimate communication. It is a back and forth between creature and Creator. Click To Tweet
To think of prayer as just talking to God makes prayer out to be the same as shooting words up into the air only to have them meet the ceiling. It is like talking to yourself, and you know what they say about people who do that. But prayer is not an intimate chat with yourself, it is not an unloading of all of your anxieties and worries. It is the verbal expression of a relationship with the God of the universe. Every relationship is bound together by communication. When this communication is one sided, the relationship eventually dissolves. It is no longer a relationship but an arrangement. This was one of the issues spoken about in the Bible regarding idols. In Psalm 115, the writer says “They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but cannot smell. They have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but cannot walk, nor can they utter a sound with their throats” (Psalm 115:5-7). The psalmist makes a point that these idols are not suited for relationships. They are not alive and therefore cannot respond back. It is different with the God of the Bible. Prayer to him is intimate communication. It is a back and forth between creature and Creator. This is what it means to pray.