Pray – Part 2

This week, I haven’t really had the time, energy, or motivation to spend a lot of time thinking about prayer or reading the book about it that I mentioned last week. In fact, I just finished reading the first part of the book this morning, and I’m still digesting it. My journey towards understanding prayer still has a long way to go, but for now I’ll just share what I learned this morning.

Prayer is all about relationship. Simply put, God wants a personal relationship with us and conversation is vital to relationships. Praying is just the way that we converse with God. The difference is that a relationship with God is unlike any other relationship a human can know. Things just don’t work the same as they do in human relationships.

For one thing, human relationships are at least to some degree comprised of equals. Sure, in many cases one person is more dominant or authoritative in the relationship than the other, but in the grand scheme of things, both people are still just people. In the case of a relationship with God, though, we are hilariously unequal. He is God, the one who created the Universe and has control over everything in it. We are tiny little humans at the mercy of our environment, easily breakable and gone in the blink of an eye. This is no relationship of equals.

The amazing thing is that God still wants to have a close relationship with each one of us. In fact, He knows us more intimately than we can imagine, and sees who we are in the midst of everyone and everything else around us. It’s easy to say those words and even understand them on a surface level, but truly believing them and grasping the gravity of them is an incredible thing. It’s just plain crazy that God would know and love each of us as individuals!

When we approach God in prayer, we come face to face with a being who is infinitely greater than us, yet sees us as His friends. It is both humbling and simultaneously uplifting. And I am starting to understand that that may be one of the most basic purposes of prayer; to be humbled before God so that He can lift you up.

Being humble in a relationship with God is something that I think has been often misunderstood. People think that they need to grovel at God’s feet, mentally degrading and emotionally punishing themselves for their sins. Instead, I think that humility before God is the natural, automatic attitude that we acquire whenever we open our eyes to His greatness. In the book that I’m reading, Prayer by Philip Yancey, the author puts it this way:


“(Humility) accurately reflects the truth. Most of what I am— my nationality and mother tongue, my race, my looks and body shape, my intelligence, the century in which I was born, the fact that I am still alive and relatively healthy— I had little or no control over. On a larger scale, I cannot affect the rotation of planet earth, or the orbit that maintains a proper distance from the sun so that we neither freeze nor roast, or the gravitational forces that somehow keep our spinning galaxy in exquisite balance. There is a God and I am not it.

Humility does not mean I grovel before God… It means, rather, that in the presence of God I gain a glimpse of my true state in the universe, which exposes my smallness at the same time it reveals God’s greatness.”


When we surrender to this attitude of humility before God, and then we think about how much that same awesome God loves us, it’s an amazing feeling. We are uplifted by His love only through our own humility!

The truth is that a connection with God is our most basic need in life, but not for the reasons that many people seem to believe. A relationship with God is in itself the thing that we need; yet many people believe that the results of such a relationship are what we really need. I won’t deny that there are great benefits of a life lived with God. He brings us strength, joy, provision, and purpose. Praying to Him is good for us because it can teach us to be thankful for what we have, think of others before ourselves, and keep our focus on God’s greater perspective. But these effects of prayer on our lives are not the purpose of prayer, really; they are just the side benefits. The purpose of prayer, as I understand it today at least, is to maintain an intimate and honest relationship with God.

Prayer should not be seen as transactional. God is not a cashier at the grocery store, allowing us to take things that we need or want in exchange for something valuable to us (in this case, our time). He is not a genie, granting us our every wish, and we cannot earn His favor on our lives through flattery. No, He wants a relationship much deeper than that. God desires friendship with us.

Part of every healthy friendship is the ability for both parties to be honest and open with each other. God speaks truth into our lives in many ways, but that isn’t all He wants to do. He also wants to hear us speak the truth to Him. He wants our honesty! And since He knows every thought that we have before we even have it, learning to be honest with God is really more of a battle with ourselves than anything else. Perhaps God wants us to pray to Him not because we can tell Him things that He doesn’t already know, but because the act of being vulnerable with Him changes us and improves our relationship with Him.

I don’t yet understand the role that our personal requests have or should have in prayer. I don’t know if asking God for things has any purpose or changes the way that things will happen. What I do know is that when we share our pain, struggles, hopes, dreams, and wishes with God, He listens. He wants us to share these things with Him because they are part of the essence of who we are. Even though we may just be reiterating what he already knows, it is the act of sharing ourselves with God that brings us closer to Him.

Pray – Part 1

Ah, the prayer. It’s the tool that we use to speak to something bigger and greater than ourselves. Prayer is used by many different religions to speak to their version of God, including the God of the Trinity (God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit), Allah, Adonai, Brahma, and Ahura Mazda just to name a few. Prayer is also used to speak to holy saints or the universe, and in some cases, people pray just hoping that it reaches someone or something out there. But no matter to whom prayer is addressed, it is used by people all around the world in many different fashions. So why do we do it? Why do we pray?

Personally, my attitude towards prayer has often been up and down. The truth is, I sometimes get something out of it (like feeling closer to God), but I usually don’t. And even though I have noticed that when I consistently take time to pray every day my life does start to improve in certain ways, I have also often questioned why I should bother to pray.

Take a moment to think about it. If you believe in the God of the Bible, then you believe that He is all-powerful, infinitely good and loving, wise, and just (among many other qualities, all of which are good). If you believe that, then you know that God is much more wise than you are and that His plan for your life is much better than yours. Personally, I feel pretty confident that God doesn’t compromise His plans based on what I want, because then I would be missing out on something much better. So then, why bother praying? Why bother asking God for things when He has already determined what will happen? It’s not as if I am going to change His mind, and honestly, in the end that always turns out to be a good thing. So why bother even asking?

Maybe prayer is supposed to be for a different purpose. Maybe it’s not supposed to be mainly composed of asking God for things. Perhaps prayer is meant to be a time to just talk to God about what’s going on in your life, ask Him questions, and generally share companionship with Him. But even this brings up some problems for me.

For one thing, I believe that God is all-knowing. Because of that, I often feel a bit silly just telling Him what’s happening in my life and how I feel. I mean, He already knows, right? In fact, He understands me even better than I understand myself. Explaining to Him how I feel and why would be like me telling a doctor about the basic concepts of human biology. When I think about that, prayer starts to seem pretty silly to me!

So if praying to ask for things is out, and praying to tell God about my life and feelings is out, then what else can I use it for? Well, while thinking through this question I tried looking at it as I would look at any other conversation with a loved one. For me, conversations usually have several different aspects: sharing information, feelings, and struggles is one; asking for and giving advice is another; debating opinions can often be an aspect in certain conversations; and then there is the one aspect that I think is by far the most important— listening.

Even though we often seem to forget it, listening is actually a vital component of communication. At least for me, I am often so eager to share my own information and feelings with other people that I forget to listen to what they have to say. But conversation is completely useless if neither person is listening to the other! Which is why I think that in every healthy human relationship, both people have learned how to share things as well as how to listen. So then, why is it that in our relationships with God, we struggle so much with taking the time to listen?

Well, I would argue that it’s actually not completely because of our own selfishness. I mean, when it comes to conversation with God, things work a little bit differently than they do in human conversations. The biggest difference, I’d say, is that we can’t literally see or hear God when we’re talking to Him. It’s a little bit harder to listen to God speak to us when we can’t even hear Him! Because of that, I think we humans should get a little bit of slack. Prayer takes faith, and faith is not always easy for us to have. At the same time, I know that spiritual maturity depends on strong faith and an understanding of how to listen and commune with God. That’s why I find it extremely important to figure this whole prayer thing out.

To help me with this quest, I’ve started reading a book called Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? by Philip Yancey. Seems fitting, right? Unfortunately, I just started reading it so I don’t have much to report yet. I plan on continuing this topic for the next couple of weeks, to share my journey as I attempt to better understand why prayer is so important. This week, I’d just like to leave you with one thought from the very beginning of the book, about the purpose of prayer.

The author suggests that prayer is so vital because it takes us out of our own little worlds and gives us a momentary glimpse of God’s infinitely greater perspective. So often, we become blinded to the world around us and the bigger picture because we are so distracted with the things that are happening to us. We forget that there are actually other perspectives in the world, and that the world really doesn’t secretly revolve around us. Prayer is a tool that can realign our point of view with God’s, if only temporarily. And I can certainly agree that there is something incredibly refreshing about getting out of my own head for a few minutes a day.

To me, prayer seems to be one of the most taken-for-granted things in the world. Many of us do it every day, or at least fairly often, and yet we never seem to stop and think about what it actually means. Whatever the purpose of prayer is, the mere fact that we can do it in the first place is purely amazing! We are just tiny little ants from God’s perspective, one speck out of almost 7 billion others; yet God does not see us that way at all. He sees us each as individuals, valued and loved beyond measure, and He takes the time to listen to each one of us whenever we speak to Him. How unfathomably amazing is that?

Without a doubt, I can say that prayer is a gift. My goal for the next few weeks is to learn how to use it.