What is prayer
When answering the question of what prayer is, etymology is always a great place to start. This can be broken into various facets.
- from Old French prier “prayer, petition, request”
- from Medieval Latin precaria “petition, prayer,”
- noun use of Latin adjective precaria, fem. of precarius “obtained by prayer, given as a favor,”
- from precari “to ask, beg, pray” (from PIE root *prek- “to ask, entreat”).
From etymology one could say, prayer is making a REQUEST. It is ASKING for favour. Requesting for intervention. When we pray, we are making a petition.
What is a petition? A petition is an appeal to authority in respect to a particular cause. Prayer hinges on acknowledging that God is a higher authority, and that he has the power to change things to our favour.
So, What is prayer?
No matter how much we write, I am not convinced that we could ever fully define what prayer is. Beyond what dictionaries may say pray is, the nature of God as described in scripture gives us a more in depth insight of what prayer is. So, how do we define prayer, according to scripture? The two verses below summarise it all.
2 Chronicles 7:14 ~ if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
If you are called by his name, you acknowledge his authority. A lack of humility may cause us to not ask for help. As the songwriter Draze said “Sometimes the hardest word to say is help. Pride is a lonely man’s road, and I’m here by myself.”
Humility causes us to know when we can use help, when we ought to ASK for it, to PETITION the Lord. It will also mean turning away from things that we know are detestable in the sight of the Lord.
Isaiah 1:18 King James Version (KJV)
18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
God as a father seeks to make our relationship personal. He cares for you as an individual. Reasoning together means that there is talking and listening from both parties. The bible tells us that the tearing of the veil when Christ was crucified granted us access to meet with God.
You will note from scripture, it used to be priests who met with God. No one else would. The priests had to prepare themselves for these meeting, and cleansed themselves before going into the holy of holies.
Christ became man and died, that we may have access to the king on the throne. Today we have that direct access. That is what prayer is. Being able to directly PETITION the king of kings.
Prayer can be subdivided into various types and forms. These are based on when, why and how it is done. Praying at the start of the day may be referred to as morning prayer, in the afternoon as afternoon prayer, and evening prayer. These categories may also include the purpose of the prayer, such as, deliverance prayer.
This is reference to prayer that is said for yourself, or praying alone.
But you, when you pray, enter into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret shall reward you openly.
The concept of a prayer closet is one that is concerned with not making a spectacle of your prayer. Your Heavenly Father sees in secret and rewards you openly. No one should know what you have prayed for or are praying for, what is the purpose of that.
If you are seeking accolades from man for praying, your reward will come from man and not from the Lord. God looks for the heart behind the prayer, not just the words. Your words, your voice and poise may be impressive to onlookers, but God’s eyes are on something entirely different.
Your prayer closet allows you to be alone with God, in a place that you could truly and completely be vulnerable. There is no one watching you, but God.
This is a concept that was brought to our tv screens in the movie, War Room. If you want to learn about prayer, I’d encourage you to watch it.
Another closely linked concept is that of finding a place to consistently meet with the Lord. Bill Hybels’ teaching called “Coffee with God” is one of our favourites in this. Watch the video below.
James 5:16 King James Version (KJV)
16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
Prayer request refer to things that you may ask others to stand with you in prayer for. For instance, if you are unwell, you may have a prayer request for your health and recovery. We are called to support one another in prayer. James 5:16 says PRAY ONE FOR ANOTHER. Prayer requests allow us to not pray vaguely or amiss. They layout people’s needs, so we would know what we ought to be asking the Lord for on their behalf.
Prayer Points refer to things that one plans to pray for. These are usually accompanied by scripture. You may have prayer requests added to your prayer points.
A prayer warrior is a person that devotes themselves to spending time in prayer. This is usually done for the purpose of interceding. Prayer warriors stand in the gap, and pray for things that no one may have considered praying for.
A prayer partner is someone that you pray together with. This is usually set over a long period.
Christian prayer times
There are no set Christian prayer times. The closest we come to that is shown in the book of Daniel, where it is recorded that he prayed 3 times a day. Most Christian dutifully do that today, but not at a specific time for the most part. Prayer times are certainly worth encouraging as they build routine and discipline.