Webster’s Dictionary defines prayer as: “A solemn and humble approach to Divinity in word or thought usually involving beseeching, petition, confession, praise or thanksgiving.”
Prayer, in some form, has been a part of the religious life of most cultures that have existed down through time. Mostly it was a means of calling to an unseen power for attention in some way or offering praise and thanksgiving. Prayer, in its basic form, is the establishing of a relationship between human and divine.
We are told to offer up prayers to G-d, in order to establish firmly the true principle that G-d takes notice of our ways, that He can make them successful if we serve Him, or disastrous if we disobey Him; that success and failure are not the result of chance or accident. -Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon
But biblical prayer is more than this. It is time that is taken to think specifically about our own needs and the needs of others, and of humanity as a whole. It is considering our place in the world and giving thanks and praise and reverence to our Creator. It is taking note of our failings and seeking forgiveness and strength to do better. It is “hearing” the words of God from the Scriptures, and specifically searching and seeking for God so that we may know Him and become ready to do His will.
Take out of life solitude where God’s voice can be heard, the receptive mood that welcomes guidance, the willingness to do whatever God wills that puts itself habitually at God’s disposal, and the fellowship that gives God’s secret influence its opportunity, and what can God do with any life? – H.E. Fosdick
Prayer begins with faith in the existence of God – “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6 ESV)
Prayer is an acknowledgement of our dependency on God, the Creator of all, and the need to seek Him and know Him. “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6-7 ESV)
Prayer is time taken to consider the greatness of the God who created all things, and who is just and right, and our own proper place before Him. “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.” (Deuteronomy 10:17- 18 ESV)
Prayer is a time of self-evaluation, of reflecting on our weaknesses and our need for mercy and correction, and considering and being thankful for our blessings. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24 ESV) “The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.” (Psalm 145:8-9 ESV)
Prayer can help us to take the time to think of the needs of others and bring them to God and contemplate how we can be God’s means of responding to those needs. “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:11 ESV)
Prayer can bring peace to our life when we have confidence that God is in control and all our needs will be met. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 ESV)
And since prayer is also about listening to God and being guided by Him through the words of Scripture, prayer changes us to be more like Him: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)
I believe that prayer is powerful because prayer can change your life.