What Is Prayer?

What Is Prayer?

An artist’s rendition of Christ at the Garden of Gethsemane.

In my deepest, darkest moments, what really got me through was a prayer. Sometimes my prayer was “Help me.” Sometimes a prayer was “Thank you.” What I’ve discovered is that intimate connection and communication with my creator will always get me through because I know my support, my help, is just a prayer away.

— Inspirational speaker and lawyer Iyanla Vanzant

MOST of us don’t ask enough questions, and sometimes, that is because we feel we know the answers and don’t wish to appear stupid. The fact is that other people wish to ask the same question we want to ask but, for similar reasons we all keep our lips tightly closed.

That is a pity, for being inquisitive is the start of a journey in understanding.

So now we ask a simple question that has a profound impact on our lives: why do we pray? Or as some would query, what is prayer?

We see it as a gentle breeze and an awareness of nature. It is gratitude and beauty and wonder that give us the poetry of the soul. It is the music of life that shares with us the awesomeness of kindness. It is goodness and gentleness that gives the eyes of the heart vivid imagination that opens to a whisper of gratitude.

Prayer is also the big heart of laughter that touches us and gives comfort. It is the warmth of love and the awareness of the uniqueness and mystery of a little life.

And we are mindful about our posture when we pray because it says much about our understanding and appreciation at different times. We either sit or kneel or stand, join our hands together or open our palms in a gesture of reception. We bow low or remain still and motionless. With others, we use words that are a common currency. Alone we may utter only the occasional phrase or just remain silent, in reflective listening.

There is no “one right way” but an “every way” that responds to circumstances of place or mood. The psalmist asks us to be still and knows that God is with us. There is a personal awareness in prayer that we are not alone, that our singularity in space is forever surrounded by the presence of God.

Prayer is our response to God’s call and proof that we are His children. Often during our celebration of the Eucharist, we are offered the invitation, “Let us pray.” And we dutifully stand for the public words of prayer. Yet each of us reflects and responds in a personal, individual way to what follows. Bound in the community by our Christian faith, we are nonetheless singular in our love for God and his love for us.

We often ask each other for prayers, seeking the support of friends in their time of prayer. It reminds us that we are part of a greater whole.

I have ceased going to church because I believe God is everywhere and I can reach out to him anytime and anywhere. But more often than anything else, I pray to the Almighty to thank, and seldom do I ask things that I desire because I know He knows what is good for me.

At one time, my sister used to chide me for not attending any church service or religious gathering. She believed that it was necessary for Good Christians to attend at least once a week to commune with God’s Spirit.

I had told her that it was enough that I prayed to the Almighty every day and every chance I got because my life had been guided by Him on most occasions. I don’t regret having missed the Sunday masses that Catholics celebrate every week nor the service and Bible sessions most ecumenical Christians attend to every Sabbath.

What is important to me is that I talk to God in all my endeavors because of all things that I do is to emulate His Presence and His Power. This Jesus had done at the Garden of Gethsemane, where he pleaded with his Father to take away the Cup of Salvation from His lips but ended his prayer by committing Himself to God’s Commandment. (ai/mtvn)

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