What is prayer? I am sure many of you have asked yourself exactly what prayer is. It is a magic formula? Is it the babbling of words? What exactly is prayer?
In an old definition, prayer is defined as "keeping company with God." In another definition, prayer is said to be "the lifting up of our hearts and minds to God." Prayer is about our relationship with God. Prayer is our seeking God and expressing ourselves with this Living God. Prayer is our response to this living God as he makes himself known to us through creation around us, through the teachings of the Catholic Church, and through his living Word. Prayer is not only based on words. If it were, then it would mean that the person who is dumb will not be unable to pray.
Prayer is us seeking the heart of God. Prayer is us entering into a deep relationship with God. Prayer is about us knowing that God loves us, and our response to His love. Prayer is us trusting in God our Father, and longing to be in communion with him. True prayer brings us into friendship with God and draws us away from sin, which is the single biggest obstacle to our prayer reaching God.
True prayer breaks down walls. True prayer heals. True prayer delivers. True prayer causes us to see them glory of the living God. True prayer strengthens our faith. In Jeremiah chapter 33: 3, God says to us, "Call to me and I will answer you; I will tell you great mysteries of which you know nothing." The friendship and intimacy with God that prayer is meant to create, is something that existed from since in Adam and Eve's days. If you read the account of Genesis you will see this. You will see God coming in the cool of the evening to look for his friends.
Scripture tells us that we are in the world, but we should not be of the world. Being in the world cannot help but notice the pain that surrounds us. It is the responsibility of Christians to carry the world in all prayer before God, our Father in heaven. There is a classic example of this in Psalm 107; and I would read but a small part of it - verses 4 to 7; and it reads
"Some had lost their way in the wilds and the desert,
not knowing how to reach an inhabited town;
they were hungry and desperately thirsty,
their courage was running low.
Then in the called to Yahweh in their trouble
and he rescued them from their sufferings,
guiding them by a route leading directly to an inhabited town."
That is the general theme of psalm 107 - God's people find themselves in trouble; they cry out to God, and he answers their prayer. It tells us that when there is trouble," people cry out to him, God hears and answers their prayer.
Is there such a thing as too much prayer? Can we ever pray to much? There are many people who believe that there can be too much prayer and that what is done in church is enough. However in his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul tells us something completely different. He says "Pray all the time, asking for what you need, praying in the spirit on every possible occasion. Never get tired of staying awake to pray for all the saints; and to pray for me to be given an opportunity to open my mouth and speak without fear and to give out the mystery of the gospel of which I am an ambassador in chains; pray that in proclaiming it I may speak as boldly as I ought to."
What is prayer and when and where should I pray? Should I pray only at church only? From the Scripture passage above, we can see that there is no restriction on prayer, when to pray, or where to pray. As God's children whom he loves infinitely, we should constantly be seeking to build that relationship with God through prayer. In our daily lives, we encounter countless situations that we ourselves cannot mend. We encounter in our daily lives, in our families, in our work places, in our country, in a world, situations that only God can deal with effectively. These we must take to him in prayer whenever they occur, whenever we are made aware of them, trusting that our God, is so much bigger than any situation or circumstance that can ever rise up against us. That being said, faith is one of the most important aspects of prayer. It is believing that no matter how hopeless any given situation might appear to be, if God wants to he can transform it. It is that simple childlike belief that my God, our God is in charge of all, that he is all powerful, and nothing, absolutely nothing is too difficult for him.
Another very important aspect of prayer is that of listening. Many of us are very good with the grocery list style of prayer where God is treated as if he were Santa Claus. We rattle off a list of 'I want', and when we are done, we pack up and we leave not waiting to hear what God has to say. One of the most beautiful types of prayer is when we recognize that what God has to say is far more important than all the words we can ever say, and we sit quietly in prayer, listening to him, and allowing him to love us.
Now once he was in a certain place praying, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples". He said to them, "Say this when you pray:
Father, may your name be held holy,
your kingdom come;
give us each day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive each one who is in debt to us.
And do not put us to the test