You feel the ache at the most unexpected moments: when you wash the last dish after dinner and realize you’ll do it again tomorrow and the next day and the next day; when you stare out the window at a bird winging toward the sunset and your own heart seems to take flight; or when you leave the nursing home and can think of nothing but what the future holds and how you will pay for it. It’s the ache of a memory, planted deep in our souls, of a different world—a better, holier, happier world where no illness strikes, no tear falls, and death is but an old recollection. It is eternity lodged in each human heart. It is the deep unquenchable homesickness for God.
Our souls thirst for God. Every human soul has an eternal need to walk and talk with his or her Creator. God’s story on this earth starts with people walking and talking with Him in Paradise on earth, and it ends with people walking and talking with Him in paradise in heaven. In the middle, the story shows Jesus walking and talking with people in everyday life. Prayer is God’s prescription that gives His people a way to commune with Him today.
What Is Prayer?
Prayer is any word or thought directed in faith toward God. The Greek word for prayer (proseuche) implies petition: an earnest request or entreaty to God. Think of the simplest prayer imaginable: “Jesus!” or “Help!” or “Thank You.” That is prayer. The words may ring with joy or drip with sorrow, they may rise on the wings of hope or fall into the pit of despair. Wherever they come from, they are all prayer, and God hears them. The book of Psalms was Israel’s prayer book and hymnal. Flip through its pages and see the wide expression of human emotion directed toward God in every style conceivable. Almost a third of the Psalms involves sorrow or lament. All are good. All meaningful. All heard and recorded and appropriately responded to by the Lord.
How to Pray
“Teach us to pray,” Jesus’ disciples pleaded (Luke 11:1). They had seen the Pharisees praying aloud with excruciating detail and self-righteous piety. It seemed likely to the fishermen and farmers following Jesus that only a select few—the priests and Levites and prophets—could reach God through prayer. Not so, said Jesus. Instead, we are to pray “Our Father,” like a child speaking to her Daddy (v. 2). The One who formed our ears hears us; the One who formed our eyes already sees. Prayer is not dependent on magical words, repetitive phrases, or self-righteous platitudes. At its heart, prayer is simply a child talking with our "Father in heaven . . .”
If you feel muddled about prayer, just think back to what it is like to be a child. Today, this very moment, lay aside whatever formulas confuse or condemn you and run like a child toward the porch light of heaven. You needn’t bring anything. Just get on your knees and go home, and God will meet you.