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What is Prayer?

Prayer is all the ways in which we communicate and commune with God, the fundamental purpose of which is to deepen our intimacy with God.[1] We pray in order to present ourselves to God and to be present with God.

As we learn to pray, we turn to Jesus as our teacher and guide. We are reminded of the disciples desire to do as their master did upon observing him praying in Luke 11:1 “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” Real prayer is something we learn.[2]

As you learn to pray, there is no need to feel the pressure to “get it right”, as Foster reminds us “God receives us just as we are and accepts our prayers just as they are”[3]

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145:18.


Why do we pray?

We pray because we love God and we wish to deepen our relationship with Him. We want to express this love, to praise Him, to exult Him, to worship Him. We pray because we desire to seek Him, to spend time with Him, to share our lives with Him, because He is the source of all that we need, and we live in dependence on Him. Jesus tells us “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-12.

We pray because we are in need of help, forgiveness, love, protection, healing, hope, strength, peace, joy, wisdom, guidance, comfort, for ourselves and for others.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6

We pray because we love people and prayer unites and strengthens us as the body of Christ.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15.

We pray because it is the most fundamental avenue for connecting us to God and growing in faith. Through prayer we know who we truly are and who this God is who loves us.[4] We pray because in doing so we participate in God’s kingdom here and now.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe” Hebrews 12:28.


What happens when we pray?

When we pray, we draw closer in relationship to Christ. We experience God. We are filled with the Holy Spirit. We receive forgiveness. We are better able to discern and follow God’s will. Our love for others grows. We are healed physically and emotionally. We are transformed. We grow in Christlikeness. We become filled with peace. We become humble. We become generous. We receive. We experience peace. Foster states it plain and simply “To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us”[5]


We all pray whether we think of it as praying or not.  The odd silence we fall into when something very beautiful is happening, or something very good or very bad.  The ah-h-h!  that sometimes floats up out of us as out of a Fourth of July crowd when the skyrocket bursts over the water.  The stammer of pain at somebody else’s pain.  The stammer of joy at somebody else’s joy.  Whatever words or sounds we use for sighing with over our own lives.  These are all prayers in their way.  These are all spoken not just to ourselves but to something even more familiar then ourselves and even more strange then the world.” Frederick Buechner


Different types of prayer to try out

Very often we can get stuck in a rut in our prayer life. Our prayer life has become dry and we don't feel as connected to God as we used to. This is normal. We tend to default to our habitual methods of prayer and what we might need is a change. At other times we may be keen to try something new spiritually in order to pursue a deeper connection to God. If this sounds like you, we have some prayer practices below to try out.


The Examen Prayer

Prayer Journaling

Lectio Divina

The Jesus Prayer

Intercessory Prayer

Fixed Hour Prayer

Praying in Color

Praying with the Psalms

Palms Down, Palms Up

Other Prayers


[1] Barton, Ruth Haley. Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation. (Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2006), 63.

[2] Foster, Richard. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. (New York: HarperCollins, 1978), 36.

[3] Foster, Richard. Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home. (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992), 8.

[4] Morse, MaryKate. A Guidebook to Prayer, (Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2013), 13

[5] Foster, Celebration, 33.

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