Do you know that you can talk to God and not actually pray? You can ask God for things and not really pray. You can “tap into the spiritual” and be religious or pious yet not be in prayer. So what is right prayer?
For John Bunyan, notable author of “The Pilgrim’s Progress”, prayer is more than talking. He said, “When thou prayest, rather let thy heart be without words than thy words without a heart.” He realized that in praying, we can go past the words and converse with God directly from our silent hearts.
Right prayer is like love.
As the Bible moves us to love in deed and to love God with our whole hearts so should we pray. Prayer is to be an act of submission and dependence upon God and a heart’s resolve to keep God in one’s life.
Right prayer is continual.
1 Thessalonians 4:17 instructs us to pray “without ceasing”, rendered in the original to mean “without interval”. It is continuous. It means our prayers are to go beyond talk. It means our hearts are to be in a posture of prayer continually.
Right prayer is easy.
It does away with much talk, empty words, and senseless utterances. It seeks to express oneself to God frankly. With friends, peers, and family we still need to be careful with our words. We have to watch that we don’t get misinterpreted. We have to speak elaborately at times so that people understand what we mean to communicate. But with God, communication is never hard work. God knows what is in our hearts before we express it. We come to a Father that discerns us wholly. There is no need to explain nor defend ourselves. There is no need to be careful with our words. We can come and talk with Him plainly. We can approach God in reverent submission and stillness knowing that He accepts and understands us. He will respond rightly. We will never be rejected or refused. We will find the forgiveness and direction we need.
Prayer Is More Than Asking.
Mahatma Gandhi, an iconic Indian nationalist, articulated his view of prayer this way, “Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is a daily admission of one’s weakness.
Indeed prayer brings to God all our needs and worrying. Philippians 4:6 tells us not to be anxious about anything but to present our requests to God. But if that is the only time you pray, if making petitions is the only kind of prayer you make, then that is wrong. That is not all there is to it.
Right prayer is an act of trust.
God has promised to meet our needs. In Matthew 4:6 God tells us to do away with unnecessary babbling because God knows what we need before we even ask. Knowing these truths doesn’t mean we don’t need to talk with God about our daily needs and struggles. We are most welcome to do that. For sure, God loves hearing about our day. But we must stay conscious of this, that when we pray, we entrust all our lacking to God, trusting that He will provide.
Right prayer is an act of yielding.
We can pray for anything and ask God for anything we desire. But we must understand that God is not bound to respond the way we always want Him to. Right prayer seeks God’s desires not our own. Right prayer seeks His direction, not our own way. From Jeremiah 29:11 we know that God’s plans are for our best. He knows how to work things out for our good. Right prayer causes us to lean less on our limited minds and to learn more on an all-wise and all-loving God. Right prayer yields itself into the hands of Someone Greater and Wiser.
Religious prayer is automatic or routine.
The religious prayer says grace before every meal. Religious prayer happens during prayer fellowships. Religious prayer is public prayer. Religious prayer is scheduled prayer. Religious prayer is required or “expected” prayer. Religious prayer is hurried prayer.
Right prayer is more.
Right prayer is thankfulness and appreciation for God’s provision. Right prayer meets with the unseen God in the secret place. Right prayer is worshipful communication that approaches the Father in reverent and joy-filled adoration. Right prayer does not leave until it has stilled its heart in the presence of God. And when the heart is finally stilled, the seeker is blessed with communion with an ever-present, all-abiding God.
God delights for us “to seek Him, to feel after Him and find Him, because He is not far from each one of us.” Let right prayer lead us to Him and His heart.