What Is Prayer and How Should We Pray?

Prayer is a miraculous gift from God. We don't often think of it that way, but we should, because it is. 

In the 1828 Webster's Dictionary the word miraculous is defined as something, "Performed supernaturally, or by a power beyond the ordinary agency of natural laws; effected by the direct agency of Almighty power, and not by natural causes".

Even within a more modern resource like Dictionary.com, we find that miracles are attributed to, "an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause."

Prayer Is A Gift

This is why prayer, that is, the ability to communicate with the Almighty by approaching His throne of grace through prayer—is a miracle. Without God granting us eternal salvation through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, no human being can approach God's throne of grace. Without being washed by the pure and precious blood of the Lamb of God, the only throne we can approach is the throne of God's judgment; where those who've rejected God's one and only Son, will be sentenced to the full wrath of God—eternal damnation in Hell.

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

"but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life."
—Romans 1:18-20, 5:8-10 (ESV)

My salvation is a miraculous, gracious and merciful gift from the Lord, and so is any access I have to Him. That includes prayer.

How To Approach The Throne of Grace

Imagine if you were to meet with a CEO of a large corporation or royalty of any nation, would you approach him/her casually as if they were your equal, or would you approach him/her with the utmost respect? Would you approach them with an attitude of entitlement, or would you approach them with humility and jubilant gratitude that they would even give you an audience with them? Those of us who are in our right mind, would approach any person of importance with the utmost honor and respect and would be elated to have even a minute of their time.

So then, if God is greater than any human being, why do we approach Him with chumminess and sometimes, down right impudence; demanding the Lord to do our will? I believe one of the reasons is due to an often misused verse in Scripture: Hebrews 4:16, "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

The Greek word used for "confidence" in Hebrews 4:16 is παρρησία, transliterated "parrēsia" which specifically refers to the manner of someone's speech—how someone of common stature might receive gracious permission to speak freely before the presence of someone of great authority (e.g., a king, military commander, parent, etc.). It is not however, the same Greek word used in 2 Corinthians 3:4 where the Apostle Paul states that our confidence is in Christ and not in ourselves. The word "confidence" in 2 Corinthians 3:4 is πεποίθησις transliterated "pepoithēsis" means to trust; to have full reliance on.

Therefore, we ought never assume to approach the LORD Almighty with pepoithēsis (confidence) in self, because without being washed with the blood of His Son, we have no right to even dream of having an audience with the Most High God; except to receive His wrath. But for those who've repented of their sins and trust (have full confidence) in Christ alone for this life and the next, we are invited by the Father to approach His throne of grace and speak freely about our needs; knowing we'll receive mercy and help rather than wrath and condemnation (Rom 8:1).

How We Should Pray

Understanding who the Almighty God is—a holy and righteous consuming fire (Heb 12:28-29), it makes sense our prayers would be filled with awe, thanksgiving and exaltation. It makes sense we'd want to align our prayers with His will and what most pleases Him, rather than align them with our will and what most pleases us. After all, what most pleases God is righteousness. And what usually pleases us, is the desires of the flesh and the desires of our eyes and the pride of life (1 Jn 2:16).

Though we ought to pray for physical health and healing, food, clothing, shelter, and all the things needed for this life; these prayers shouldn't outnumber our prayers for what's most beneficial—our spiritual health, protection and provisions.

The prayers of the faithful saints in the Old and New Testaments are vastly different from the prayers of the saints of the 21st century. Whenever we read prayer requests, share prayer requests, hear them announced corporately in church or elsewhere, unlike what's exampled in Scripture, the majority of our prayers are consumed with the cares of this world rather than the cares of God. Again, I'm not saying we ought not pray for these things, we should; we're commanded to. However, prayers for our physical needs shouldn't be the bulk of our prayers.

The primary focus of the prayers recorded in God's Word are for the exaltation of God's name (1 Sam 2:1-10); for God to search and test our hearts to see if there's any sinful way in us and lead us in the way everlasting (Ps 139:23-24); to remove from us falsehood and lying and give us neither poverty nor riches, but only give us what we need so we're not tempted to profane the name of the Lord with our pride and entitlement (Prov 30:8); to fill us with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, walking in a manner worthy of Christ, bearing good fruit, increasing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with all power to endure the temptations of this life with patience and joy (Col 1:9-12); and make us worthy of being called children of the Most High God, fulfilling every resolve for good and every work of faith by His power so that the name of Jesus may be glorified in our lives (2 Thess 1:11-12).

God said only when we pray His will, we will receive what we've asked for (Jn 16:23-24, Js 4:3). But if we want to pray God's will, we need to immerse ourselves in His Word; for that's where He's revealed His will for us.

Praying, that is, communicating with the Almighty without being immersed in His Word, is a foolish and fruitless work.

"My tongue will sing of Your word, for all Your commandments are right. Let your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen Your precepts. I long for Your salvation, O LORD, and Your law is my delight. Let my soul live and praise You, and let Your rules help me."
—Psalm 119:172-175 (ESV)