Prayer is huge in the Christian walk. One does not simply walk in the faith without prayer. What is it about prayer that is so special? Why is prayer so important? Why do we need to pray? What is the purpose?
When I was younger, older Christians often described prayer as part of a 2-sided coin, the other side being the Bible. They would say, “Prayer is when we talk to God. Reading the Bible is when God talks to us.” That works for newer Christians who are just beginning to tread the waters of the Christian faith. However, it seemed to be more than that. I remember people talking with astonishment about those who would sit up all night praying. Yet, for some reason the above definition of prayer didn’t seem to match up with the degree of astonishment people had for someone who would go until sunrise talking to God. Prayer had to be more than a one-way conversation for hours at a time. That led me on a journey to seriously find out what the nature of this the bedrock to faith was.
Part of what I heard as a younger Christian is true. Prayer is very much part of a conversation with God. Obviously, when we speak, it is our voice. Yet if that is the only thing that happens in our prayer time, it seems to be little more than an internal monologue. In every conversation, there is more than one voice. There is an exchange between speaking and listening. That is the foundation to building a relationship, either with people or with God.
So why do we pray? We pray because we desire to speak with God. We desire to share our life and experiences with Him. It is very much like coming home and sharing good news or frustrating events with our friends and family. There is a voicing of joy and/or frustration. Then there is a time to listen to what others have to say about it. We pray because we desire a conversation with God. Now there are times and places for formal prayers, particularly in public settings. We do serve the King of the Universe after all. Yet there are other times when our prayers are more conversational, when we use our own voice, and not that of a 17th century Puritan.
One of the most neglected parts, and I would say the hardest part of prayer is the listening aspect. Many of us simply do not have the patience to sit in silence trying to hear the voice of the Lord. We don’t take the time to train ourselves for such. Our conversation with God tends to stay a monologue with ours being the only voice. Yet there is an emphasis in Scripture to listen to the voice of the Lord. “Hear Of Israel, The Lord your God is One.” “My sheep hear my voice.” “Be still and know that I am God.” Often we find ourselves too busy to hear the voice of the Lord, that still small voice that speaks to us. Why don’t more Christians attend to this powerful foundation to faith? Maybe we were never taught to do it. Maybe we are afraid we will hear wrong. Maybe we are turned off by the “not so stable” people who claim to hear God’s voice and it sounds more like the devil’s.
Let me encourage you to practice listening to the voice of God. Focus on clearing your mind and being silent before the throne. First, we may find there is a deafening amount of “noise,” all the thoughts about the worries of today and tomorrow, of bad experiences and cravings for food. But if we can get past the wall of noise, we may just find a peaceful solitude in the presence of God. We may, for the first time, really hear the voice of the Lord. It’s ok to be wary of such a practice. It’s also ok to write down what you think He says and compare it with Scripture. You may be surprised at what happens. You may have a real conversation with your Savior and learn about how he really loves you.
Some of you may hear negative voices. You may hear words that cut you down as a person. We know from Scripture that is not the voice of the Father who so loved you, He sent His Son to die for you. You have every bit of authority to reject that voice and continue to seek the true voice of the Father.
We pray because God desires us to converse with Him. He desires to be with us. Amazingly, when we spend time with the Father, it will become evident because we will begin to emulate Him in our attitudes and character. We pray to build relationship with God. We pray, not to spout out an exhaustive list of requests, but to be close to our Creator and Savior. We will find our prayers answered, be it yes or no, and we will have a thankful heart that trusts in the God to whom we converse. We will know Him and His voice. “He will be our God, and we will be His people.”