Prayer is one of the essential components of any religion. Though they all do it in different ways, everybody believes in some sort of prayer. I think even atheists believe in prayer. I have heard some say that prayer is nothing but talking to our own heart. When it comes to Christianity, prayer is one of the concepts which has been ruined and tossed back and forth among many denominations. I have seen some extremes in this area such as a short prayer like, “God bless this. In Jesus’ name. Amen” to long lasting prayer chains.
We used to have evening prayer in our family ever since we became believers in Christ. It usually starts with a song and then one of us will pray for everything. I have to say I have prayed genuine prayers in those times , but I have also prayed fake prayers just to get rid of the guilt of not praying. In essence, it became a ritual in no time. It became a burden. There were times we didn’t know which song to sing, so we just sing one of the songs we know the lyrics well for the sake of singing it. There were times when we go back and forth on who should pray. In reality nobody wants to really pray but since we have to do that ritual, so we look at each other with the face, 'it's your turn today'.
I have also prayed to show off my spirituality. One example would be praying before a meal. We used to pray before every meal no matter whether it is at home or at restaurant. Within no time, that too became a ritual. We came to a point where we couldn’t eat without saying a prayer. Sometimes I have no patience to wait for everybody so I pray a silent prayer and start eating.
Prayer became a learned behavior. We thought, as Christians we should pray in certain occasions. I have learned to construct some great statements to insert into my prayer including bible verses. Somebody told us that we have to quote the promises in the bible to God to make the prayer more effective. (As though, we need to remind God about His promises). One great example would be the prayer for healing. People quote lot of promises of healing in the Bible to make God to heal the sick. It is like a bargaining.
Another thing I should mention is the Lord’s Prayer. This is one of the portions of the Bible which has been misinterpreted and misused among a lot of people. Some people recite this prayer 50 or 100 times. I wish they had read the verses prior to that prayer in Mathew 5: And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.. That’s exactly what they do with the Lord’s prayer: babbling like pagans, using many words and meaningless repetition. What a tragedy! I think the reason God gave us one mouth and two ears is to talk less and listen more.
Another thing I myself struggled with even after coming to an understanding of Grace is, if God knows everything why even pray? What's the point?
I think God has revealed something to me in this regard. He gave me a non religious, simple insight into the reason why we should pray. Today, I can say that prayer is nothing but conversing with God. I want to converse with my Father. Why? The same reason I want to converse with my wife. I talk to her because I love her. I talk to my Father because I love Him. He talk to me because He loves me. There is absolutely no other reason to talk to Him. Bible says, ‘pray continually’. Can you imagine inserting some pre-constructed statements, raising our hands and kneeling down before each time we talk to our heavenly Father? It doesn't look like a healthy relationship at all. Healthy relationships do not need formalism. Healthy relationships do not need to schedule time to talk.
Some of the greatest conversations I have had with Father is while driving. There is no one to distract. I don't have to watch my grammar. I don't have to be conscious. It is a free talk.
Prayer is not necessarily filling the air with chatter, the most important part of prayer is listening. We don't have to begin our day with the laundry list. He already knows our needs. He has something to tell us if we are ready to listen. One of the primary ways he talks to us is through His word. The other day while I was reading from Ephesians he spoke to me from a small verse.
the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession
Look at that! We are God's possession! He owns us! If He owns us, how much do we need to remind Him to bless us? How much difference a few mere words from our mouth can make? I can very well say a lot of things using my mouth which are totally contrary to what I have in my heart. So, does He bother for the many words I speak? I have also had situations in my life where I didn't even know what to pray. There were situations where not even a single word came out of my mouth but my heart was heavy and burdened. How am I going to say a nice prayer at that moment?
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. (Romans 8:26)
What a relief! God can hear us without even a single word from our mouth! The Spirit who lives in us intercedes for us. It is a Spirit to Spirit communication. We don't understand all the details. We have no clue how spirit is communicating. But we can trust Him. Or we can act as if we know how to pray 'in the Spirit'. The Spirit who owns us knows what is best for us. Can we trust Him? The more we trust Him the less we need to beg and instruct. The more we trust the more we can enjoy conversing with Him. He has provided us everything we need to enjoy a loving, intimate, trusting relationship with Him. He asked us to call Him "Abba" (Daddy) not 'God of Abraham, Isac and Jacob'. It gives us the confidence to trust Him for the desires of our heart or the burdens of our heart, even the ones which cannot be expressed using words.