Question 4: What is prayer?
So, I’m not sure if the “What is…?” Series has already gotten old, or if people were just not into the topic of prayer. However, we went from having twenty or thirty responses, to having only six. That’s okay though – there is a progression to these questions – and it looks like they will be taking us into the summer. Perhaps it is a bit of a tamer topic, prayer. How many people can really disagree about what prayer is…?
When I did the “What is…?” station at a .bE worship gathering I led, I would often have “What is prayer?” as one of the questions. I liked having people reflect on what they were doing when they were praying. These are some of the responses I received, some not unlike the few that were left on this blog:
- Prayer is relationship
- A time to let God change your heart
- Trying to express what cannot be uttered; an overflow of the inner self, reaching toward Jesus
- A call with a friend
- Communion. So mysterious, so powerful, because of the Spirit, sometimes a weight, a burden, sweet, tender, intimate, honesty, confession, healing, being moved – talking, listening
I’m pretty sure I used to have a very narrow definition of prayer. Prayer was done in church; prayer was something you did when you had your eyes closed, head bowed, hands together and you were talking to God. In college, when I ran with the more conservative evangelical crowd, prayer took on some new meanings for me. I began to hear about speaking in tongues during prayer, or intercessory prayer. During the summer in college I worked at Calvin Crest, the power of prayer took on many new meanings as I heard story after story of people being freed of demons and addictions through the power of prayer. I began to become more confident in my praying for and with students at camp. I think the Holy Spirit was involved in that – at least I was pretty sure of it at that time.
But then I started to get skeptical about prayer. I’m not sure why…but I didn’t do it as much. I mean, I prayed at church, and when I was a youth pastor, we’d pray at youth group. But I didn’t know so much what it was all about. What was it actually doing? And I would find myself critiquing the way other people prayed (although, using “Lord” as a comma is a common practice I still find irritating).
Lately I find the power of silence one of the most powerful forms of prayer. Silence to simply let God speak, if God wishes to speak. Silence to simply place myself into a posture where God can do what God wants to do. And yet, even with this type of prayer, I rarely set aside time for that to happen…
So what is prayer? Prayer is any activity that allows humanity to enter into a sacred space; a space where Spirit can speak, Christ can heal and God can transform.