What is Prayer?

PrayerI’ve been reading a book written by our former pastor, Rev. Dr. Gordon K. Reed, called the Westminster Daily Devotional. It’s a wonderful book that explains the Westminster Confession of Faith in great detail in a devotional format. On the back cover, he quotes a story about Dwight L. Moody where a little girl was asked, “What is prayer?” The girl had been taught the Shorter Catechism and replied,

“Prayer is an offering up of our desires to God for things agreeable to His will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins and thankful acknowledgement of his mercies.”

I used to think that prayer was a way to tell God what we wanted – a kind of celestial Christmas list. In fact, some churches use a Bible verse that says, “[t]herefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours,” and takes it at face value. But, is that really what God intented? The Shorter Catechism puts stipulations on our prayer: our desires must be agreeable to His will, asked in the name of Christ and be offered along with confession of our sins and thanksgiving for our blessings.  When I look at my wants couched by those conditions, some of them fall by the wayside.

Once I heard one sermon where the preacher said that prayer was not for God’s benefit, it was for our own. That really sent my head to spinning. To think that God already knew what we needed and we didn’t need to tell him! 

So here’s what I’ve wrapped my mind around concerning prayer: if I read the Word with the intention and desire to become more like Christ, then my desires will change. I’ll want what God wants for my life.

And then there’s the confession and thanksgiving part as well. When I look at how far I am from Christ’s model, how can I ask for more material things? And when I realize how much He’s already given me, I have no need for more.

So, what is prayer? When I remember all these things, prayer is talking with God, making ME aware of my needs and shortcomings while I wait for God to accomplish what He wants for my life.



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