Question 38: What is prayer?

QUESTION:  What is prayer?

ANSWER: Prayer is pouring out our hearts to God in praise, petition, confession of sin, and thanksgiving.
The human experience has been described in many different ways throughout history. How would you describe the human experience? When do you feel most human, or most alive? Where does your humanity frustrate you?

Pete Grieg wrote an article entitled “To Be Human Is To Pray.” We were made for a relationship with our creator. We have the privilege of having access to our creator, who is also our father. As we pray, we thank God for who he is and for all he has done for us, we confess our sin and make requests of him. In prayer, we experience God’s nearness.
  • Prayer often grows best in the soil of sorrow, desperation, and need.
  • True prayer is about God, his name, and his purposes.
  • Prayer is pouring out our souls to God.

1 Samuel 1:1-20
There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephrathite. He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the LORD of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the LORD. On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the LORD had closed her womb. And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the LORD had closed her womb. So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the LORD, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. And Elkanah, her husband, said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the LORD. She was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly. And she vowed a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”

As she continued praying before the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the LORD. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.

They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD; then they went back to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the LORD.”
  • Where do you go to find balance in your life?
  • Who do you pour your heart out to? Do you process internally or externally? 
  • Where do you often find yourself going in times of sorrow, desperation, and need? How do these help? How are they lacking?

  • We have access to God through prayer, to God the creator and the sustainer of the universe. How would your prayer life be transformed if you believed in God’s power?
  • God is not only powerful, but he is the God who sees us. As he saw Hannah in her suffering, he sees us in ours. How does knowing that God sees us transform our prayer life?
  • Prayer can often feel like a task to complete rather than an experience to be enjoyed. What can we do to create the space we need to spend meaningful and enjoyable time with God? Try naming some practical things to help you do this.

  • Pray for our world. Our world is in desperate need of a savior. Try using the Joshua Project’s Unreached of the Day to help you pray this week. There are also many physical needs that are unmet in our world. Pray together in your groups for some of the physical needs you are aware of. Pray for your prayer lives! Pray for joy this week as you spend time with God.
  • Try taking an extended prayer walk for an hour or so this week and as you pray affirm your belief in God’s power and his presence. Pour out your soul to God in prayer.

Father God, we thank you that you see and you know. We thank you that we can come to you in prayer and pour out our souls. Father, we praise you for who you are. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.