Since the beginning of June, I have been studying, thinking, and meditating on Christian prayer. Prayer is one of the most difficult spiritual disciplines to “master,” if you will. Walk up to any random Christian and ask them about their prayer life, and most likely they will be hesitant to discuss it with you. In fact, you may find some Christians who have not truly prayed privately in the last two months. Maybe longer.
Admittedly, I have struggled in my own prayer life. I would love to characterize it as vibrant, joyful, and intimate. But I would be lying. More accurately, my past prayer life would more aptly be described as absent, empty, and lackluster. I would use God when I needed him, placing him on my terms. I was trying to perform a religious rite, rather than experience an intimate relationship.
However, my prayer life has since been transformed. This is partly because I am growing in my knowledge of what prayer actually is. One book that has helped me tremendously is Tim Keller’s, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. In the second chapter (pp. 29-32), Keller beautifully describes prayer without defining it. He makes a lot of “prayer is” statements without defining prayer. His descriptions provided me with greater motivation to pray. Keller gives nine descriptions of prayer based on George Herbert’s beautiful poem called, “Prayer (I).”
1. Prayer is a natural human instinct
2. Prayer is a nourishing friendship
3. Prayer changes those around us
4. Prayer is a journey
5. Prayer helps us endure
6. Prayer means knowing yourself as well as God
7. Prayer changes things
8. Prayer is a refuge
9. Prayer changes us
10. Prayer unites us with God himself
Think through each of these statements and use them to develop a deeper prayer life. The first step in growing closer to God in prayer is meditating on the greatness of prayer. Keller closes by saying, “Prayer is awe, intimacy, struggle—yet the way to reality. There is nothing more important, or harder, or richer, or more life-altering. There is absolutely nothing so great as prayer” (32).
Cultivating a healthy and deep prayer life is one of the hardest things you will do as a Christian. But it is also one of the most meaningful, joyful, and life-changing things you will do as a Chrisitan. But above all, prayer is an absolute necessity—the breath of the Christian life. And it is of infinite greatness—“there is nothing so great as prayer.”
Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church in East Bernstadt, KY. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their son, Jude Adoniram.