what is prayer

“Why must people kneel down to pray?
If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do.
I’d go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep,
deep woods and I’d look up into the sky—up—up—up—into that lovely blue sky that looks as if
there was no end to its blueness.
And then I’d just feel a prayer.”

L.M. Montgomery


(the quince are slowly forthcoming / Julie Cook / 2018)

According to Merriam Webster prayer is:

1. a (1): an address (such as a petition) to God or a god in word or thought said a prayer
for the success of the voyage

2. a: set order of words used in praying
b: an earnest request or wish
2: the act or practice of praying to God or a god kneeling in prayer
3: a religious service consisting chiefly of prayers —often used in plural
4: something prayed for
5: a slight chance haven’t got a prayer

Books have been written, lectures have been given and the search engines are endless…
Everyone has an idea, a thought, a notion…
as to what prayer is…
Both personally and publically

For you see prayer can be both.

There are the: ‘what types’, ‘which ways’ and ‘how-tos’…

Gandhi, a Hindu, offers one nice thought on prayer…
“Prayer is not asking.
It is a longing of the soul.
It is the daily admission of one’s weakness.
It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”

While Mother Teresa, a modern day saint, offers another thought —
“Prayer is not asking.
Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition,
and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.”

Yet both saint and Hindu offer similar thoughts along a similar line…

Asking or not asking
Longing yet nothingness
Listening versus hearing
Words or silence.
Knees or standing
Thoughts or shouting
Loud versus quiet
Individual versus group
Need or praise
Hope or hopelessness…

We know that Jesus both wept and prayed..much as many of us do to this day.
He also implored…as in an earnestness that almost borders on begging.

Moses prayed and implored
Abraham prayed and implored
Just as every prophet, every apostle and every saint on down the line has done since.

I saw a sign outside of a church not long ago that read ‘to worry is an annoyance to God
As in God tells us not to worry…and yet our prayers are so often overflowing with
the very worry that this sign tells us is an annoyance to God–for it is a manifestation
of our doubt…our lack of faith…
and to some, it is even considered sinful…as in a lack of trust….and did not God state
to us to pray without ceasing, and to trust.

So I suppose I’ve annoyed God considerably over the years.
Sometimes more than others.

Sometimes I’ve known Him to listen, other times I’ve been left to wonder.

This is where the nonbeliever loves to pounce…taking hold of that latter notion with a
sneering “see, I told you so”…”for there is no God.”

But none the less, I pray.

Because none the less,
I believe.

Silence and frustration
Sound or emptiness
Annoy or implore
Wordless or shout
Anger or sorrow…

I pray.

“In the silence of the heart, God speaks.
If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you.
Then you will know that you are nothing.
It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness,
that God can fill you with Himself.
Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”

Mother Teresa

20 comments on “what is prayer

  1. Beautiful thoughts, dear Julie… there is a quiet and contemplative tone to this post that speaks of deep trust and confidence…And pardon me for this, but I can’t help but associate your post with Martina McBride’s song, “Anyway.” 🙂 Praying for you and yours! Love and huge hugs! ❤

    • thanks Lynn–despite the typos and missing words theat I’ve gone back in to edit this morning–probably since you even read it—my writing seems to always be a work in need 😉 But hopefull after three corrections already—I can let it be today—perhaps that’s what happens when one writes with tears blocking one’s clarity…

  2. davidkitz says:

    Lord, give me a soul of great silence and great listening.

  3. Lynda says:

    I think prayer is different for different people at different times. One of my favourite passages is Psalm 42. It begins:
    “As a deer longs for flowing streams,
    so my soul longs for you, O God.
    My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.”
    Then, in Ephesians 6:18, we are told to “Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication.” Prayer must be more than words – it must be a state of the mind and heart where we are in communion with God always.
    How blessed we are that we can take our cares and concerns and joys and successes to the Creator of the universe and share with God, knowing that God will listen! Then we have the privilege of sitting in silence and hearing the voice of God in response.
    Thanks for this post Julie. I know it comes from the depths of your heart!

    • it makes me think of the Desert Fathers and the Jesus prayer—a prayer that was so much a part of them that it was constantly being offered over and over during the course of their waking hours—all within their minds…
      I know He’s not really annoyed…probably just frustrated 😉

      • Salvageable says:

        How odd that you should mention these things. I just started reading a book on John Climacus, and the introduction is all about the Desert Fathers and the Jesus Prayer. J.

      • I’ve written about the payer before—it is a powerful prayer and one that I call on to thid day—it is a simple sumation and powerful at the same time…the Desert Fathers and Mothers knew a thing or two on prayer!

  4. Wally Fry says:

    Good stuff Julie. Just last week we had a discussion about prayer postures. Biblically, there are many. You know, fervent, continuous prayer will always get us exactly what we want. Doesn’t that sound crazy? John McArthur said that once, and I heard people gasp in the congregation. He then pointed out that what changes is not God, but our “wanter.”

    • thanks Wally– it was Søren Kierkegaard who said “The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”
      And there is real truth in that…
      for God cannont be changed…it is not His nature–rather it is ours…

      Just praying earnestly these days…

  5. hatrack4 says:

    I agree with the first quote from Montgomery. I pray more now than ever before, but I hardly ever pray as I was taught. I just feel close to God. In so doing, I do a lot of listening. God knows my needs and they are being met. Even some of the wants are being met, without asking. Prayer simply ‘is.’

  6. Tricia says:

    Loved the complimentary definitions of prayer by Mother Teresa and Ghandi. It’s so personal how one chooses to communicate with God. Nonetheless He hears us, even if we don’t always hear back.

  7. Citizen Tom says:

    Very much enjoyed your post. Got a good laugh from this.

    I saw a sign outside of a church not long ago that read ‘to worry is an annoyance to God‘
    As in God tells us not to worry…and yet our prayers are so often overflowing with
    the very worry that this sign tells us is an annoyance to God–for it is a manifestation
    of our doubt…our lack of faith…
    and to some, it is even considered sinful…as in a lack of trust….and did not God state
    to us to pray without ceasing, and to trust.

    That’s a great way to keep members from joining up, post heresy on a sign outside the church.

    The Bible not to fear. Still we do. That’s why a large part of prayer is giving our troubles to God. God is our Father. We are His children. Parents comfort their children.

    • This little church was on a back road home from florida—when I was driving past and read it, I tried to wrap my thoughts around the notion that I was being annyoing–and I guess it was from that idea of offering up then letting it go—so quit worrying already—but my prayers are full of worry, concern even angst…and being able to time and time again go to Him with even what might seem trivial yet I know He sees and knows that what might seem trivial yet is a bit deal to me, is a big deal to Him in that He provides His undivided attention…time and time again…Yes, I try not to “do” the fear factor with a loving Father…ABBA

  8. dbp49 says:

    I think I always just thought that the worry in my prayers was a reflection of my lack of faith in myself. I knew God wouldn’t fail me, but I had messed up blessings of His in the past, and at times may have been worried that I would do so again. Great post though Julie, your articles always seem to have a timeliness to them that is certainly appreciated.

  9. Thank you for sharing your inner longings…you express well what I think we all go through now and then…and then again…I remember one thought from my days in the convent: “Be still and know that I am God.”

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