What is Prayer?
Communicating with God is the simple answer to the question, “What is prayer?” This communication goes both ways—to God and from God. One of my favorite prayer quotes is from Brother Lawrence. He said, “Contemplative prayer is the pure, loving gaze that finds God everywhere.”
For me the communicating with God also includes the simple acts of noticing and being attuned to the presence of God in the world. This is expressed well in this poem by Patricia Lunetta Gould:
The last time I saw Margaret, she had reached the skeletal stage.
I rubbed her feet that day, touching death. Feet bumped out with
bunions, tipped with twisted toes and curling yellowed nails. On
her bedside stand, a scrap of paper—the name of one of those TV
evangelists who beseech you to feel the healing power of Jesus
through the screen—and don’t forget to send your generous love
As I drive home on a narrow curving road, someone tailgates,
itching to go faster, not knowing he’s flesh and fragile. Slowed
by sadness and sick of pressure, I pull onto the gravel shoulder,
let him shoot by…and on my right
Catch sight of a great blue heron standing tall and still in the aisle
made by two rows of towering trees. Like a priest in feathered
robes, he bows his head three times before an alter of mountain
bluffs. It’s dusk, and the moon, just rising, illuminates his wings
as they open in benediction for evening flight. His parting call:
“Stay awake. Holiness may spread its wings for you at any
- Patricia Lunetta Gould
How to Pray to God
Prayer is communication with the Divine. In the previous prayer quote communication was taking place from God to a human. In the quote poem below, Mary Oliver suggests prayer goes both ways.
It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, a silence in which
another voice may speak.
This quote by Elizabeth Barrett Browning also speaks to a sense of what prayer is:
Earth is crammed with heaven,
And every common bush
Afire with God;
And only he who sees
Takes off his shoes.
The rest sit round it
And pluck blackberries.
Why do we pray?
By far the most important reason to pray is to deepen your relationship and connection with God. For me this prayer quote says it all:
I crawled across the barrenness to you with my empty cup.
Uncertain and fearful, I asked for any small drop of refreshment.
If only I had known you better, I would have come sooner—
Running with a bucket.
-- Author Unknown
So make your communication with God a matter of carrying a bucket with you as you live your life, walking in the world.
Joeseph Schmidt says, “Prayer is fundamentally an offering of ourselves to God.” It is coming to God with all our brokenness and pain, confusion and doubt, and simply saying, “Here I am. This is what I bring.”
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