“What’s the point of praying?! It never does anything!” There are times in our lives when the disciplines that we practice seem to carry no weight in our lives. We know that we should do things, like praying, because we’ve been told our entire church lives that that is what Christians do. Yet, prayer feels meaningless when life doesn’t change or we do not recieve a response. Does this mean that we should be prayering? What if it means that our expectation of prayer has been wrong all along.
What is prayer?
Simply put, prayer is a dialogue between us and God. The key is that it is a dialogue. Too often people imagine that prayer is something you do by saying “Dear God,” list our grievences, desires, or demands, then finish with a big “Amen” and head along our day. While some of that is certainly part of our conversation with God, prayer requires a response. No dialogue is one sided. This dialogue can occur anytime in your life. You wake up, pray. Eating lunch, pray. Going for a big job interview, pray. Spouse laying sick in the hospital, pray. Kid brings home all A’s, pray. However, there is a danger in praying. One of Jesus’ teachings is to not pray in a way to impress others (Matthew 6:5-6). So prayer is a communication between us and God, but should not be used in a way to show your spiritual prowess by demonstrating how you pray.
Prayer is the only way to maintain a constant state of dependence on God.David Jeremiah
Why is prayer meaningful?
Prayer is the most meaningful way we can connect with God. Prayer is where we can have an understanding of the work God is doing in your life and/or the world. Too often we teach people that they should pray, or develop a discipline of prayer. Yet, “[i]t would of course be a rather low-voltage spiritual life in which prayer was chiefly undertaken as a discipline,” writes Dallas Willard, “rather than as a way of co-laboring with God to accomplish good things and advance his Kingdom purposes.” If all we do is treat prayer a checkbox on our todo list, we miss out on what God is working on. Prayer opens us up to that revelation, thus allowing us to move with confidence in the work of God.
Prayer is the only pathway to discovering who God created us to be, everything else is just a guessing game.
Should I pray?
In my experience, I always ask if I should be praying when life gets really rough. Unfortunately, this is also the time when I question whether or not God is even listening to my prayers. But this is not the point of prayer. Prayer is not a magic charm I can use in order to make God change my situation. Yes you should pray in every moment you possibly can. God may not change your circumstances, and I know that’s really hard to know while suffering. In the chaos of hardship, we need God’s guidance more than ever. Prayer keeps us from turning bitter towards God. Prayer keeps us in conversation with God, as if we were students working with a tutor, trying to understand the situation to the best of our abilities. I would encourage you to cultivate a prayerful lifestyle, so that no matter the situation, you find yourself praying.
Prayer is a discipline that we often teach new Christian to do, but we give no real guidance in how to practice it. I had a hard time articulating what I experience prayer to be, and I’m sure I still haven’t encompassed everything in this post. I think we too often want people to simply pray at meals and during worship, without understanding how to cultivate it as a discipline for their lives. Most of this, I’m sure, comes from ackwardness over having a dialogue with someone we often do not audibly hear respond. We know we should pray, but we find it hard when prayer seems to do so little. Prayer is not a means to change our lives in the way we desire, rather, it’s a way to change our perspective by being in communion with God.
Does this make sense to you? What are some meaningful ways that prayer has effected you? Leave a comment or reach out. I’d love to hear from you.