What does that word mean to you? Does it conjure up images of kneeling with a rosary and repeating pre-written words, such as my own experience as a young Catholic girl? Or does it remind you of being with a group, with everyone totally silent and nothing spoken out loud? Or does it conjure up an image of a group holding hands and standing in a circle with someone speaking out loud as others agree and nod their heads in agreement? Or are you reminded of a group speaking loudly and boldly, even all at once sometimes, boisterous, with strange words mixed with English that provide an atmosphere of liveliness and strangeness all at that same time? I have experienced all of these with different groups of Christians. Whatever your image is, I submit that we all have a somewhat different viewpoint and definition of what “prayer” actually is.
Personal prayer time is different than coming together in a group. By its very nature, it must be. The word “prayer,” by dictionary definition, means a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship. Breaking it down even more, I see that “prayer” can be a petition for yourself, where intercession is usually when one steps in on behalf of others. I have gone through the scriptures to get a deeper understanding of this thing we call “prayer.” I think I may have to adjust my own understanding as I see prayer perhaps being used as a catch all word, but there are many other aspects to the believer’s relationship with God that could fall under that comprehensive label. I personally need the specificity of each aspect in order to understand what others are speaking of when they use the word.
Since the Bible is my go-to source for all things pertaining to life and godliness, as Peter says, 1 Timothy 2:1 says “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men,” Right here we see four different things listed, but all would come under the heading of “prayer,” if we are referring to relationship with God. This passage is speaking specifically of “prayer” on behalf of others.
If you were raised in church, the definition of prayer that you most likely have from childhood is what is in you and is the image you understand. I was raised as a little Catholic girl. We knelt to pray and used rosary beads to keep track of how many prayers of a certain type we said. I always lost count, though. The image of prayer implanted in my young mind was repetition of certain prayers over and over as penance for sin. Today, as one who is committed to scriptures as my guide in life, I see prayer as much more than that childhood image, yet the word still always conjures up petitioning God more than anything else.
I am working on expanding my definition of “prayer.” I would submit to you that all aspects of Christian worship may come under that comprehensive heading, but with more specificity. There is worship, extolling the virtues of God and loving on Him. One can either speak it or think it or sing it. I think thanksgiving goes along with this. Dancing makes our physical body feel alive and, I believe is also a way to worship God. King David danced with all his might, it says in 2 Samuel 6:14. He was excited about what God had done for him, and he celebrated with dancing.
There is praying in the spirit (as Jude 1:20 and 1 Cor. 14:2 talks about), building ourselves up on our most holy faith or speaking mysteries unto God. There is petition and supplication, asking God to do things, usually on our own behalf. I believe intercession is petition on behalf of others. Abraham interceded in the book of Genesis on behalf of Lot to deliver him when he (Abraham) learned that Sodom and Gomorrah were to be destroyed because of their sin. In the New Testament, Peter was slated for execution by Herod in Acts 12, “But constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church” (Acts 12:5) and Peter was set free by an angel. I would call that fervent intercession!
Another aspect is what we might term as decreeing or declaring. In the book of Job, we see a powerful statement that says, “You will also declare a thing, And it will be established for you; So light will shine on your ways.” Job 22:28. The King James Version says decree instead of declare, but they have the same meaning. This is speaking the words of God aloud with authority, or commanding, such as when Jesus said to the fig tree, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again,” in Matthew 21:19 and Mark 11:15. He later tells his disciples, “whoever shall say to this mountain, be thou removed and does not doubt, it shall be done for him.” Mark 20-23. This is an example of decreeing or declaring.
Meditation could be considered another type of prayer, as we read His word aloud and speak it so that our hearts can hear it. Faith comes by hearing the word of God. If you are having any trouble in your faith, I would suggest finding the scriptures for your situation, then speak them aloud, many times if you need to. We can build our faith in His word this way. This is how we renew our mind to think like God thinks and drive out the negative thoughts that come to us.
Remember, we are made in the image of God. When God created the earth and everything in it, God spoke words first, then He saw it and said it was all good.
This is not a comprehensive study on prayer by any means, but just a few things I have learned in my journey with God. In the end, there are many expressions of our relationship with God. It’s all good!