How Should Christians Understand Prayer?
When trying to understand what prayer is, a good place to start is identifying what prayer is not. Prayer is not a formula (i.e., if I pray in a certain way, then God will be obliged to give me what I ask for). Prayer is not a way for us to convince God to bend to our will. Nor is prayer just one of several religious activities we engage in to earn God’s favor.
Rather, prayer is an ongoing conversation during which we get to know God more intimately. Oswald Chambers wrote the following in My Utmost for His Highest: “When a person is born again from above, the life of the Son of God is born in him, and he can either starve or nourish that life. Prayer is the way that the life of God is nourished…..We look at prayer as a means of getting things for ourselves, but the Bible’s idea of prayer is that we may know God himself.”
As we get to know God, we begin to see our circumstances from His perspective. We then adjust our will to God’s will. Chambers also wrote: “When you begin to pray , things remain the same but you begin to be different….It is not so true that ‘Prayer changes things’ as that prayer changes me, and then I change things.”
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mark 1:35. (NIV)