Prayer is, in the Christian and Biblical sense, talking to God and asking him something. The English word “pray” comes from a root that means to make a petition or entreat someone, not just God. The words translated in the Bible as “pray” have similar root meanings. “Pray”, though popular usage has come to include all manner of talking to, praising, confessing, adoring God in speech. But the basic idea is that by praying to God, you are asking him for something.
You might be asking for healing, safety, forgiveness or protection or any number of different things, but most often when a Christian prays they are usually seeking something for themselves. Interestingly when Jesus taught his disciples to pray he said the first thing they should ask for, is that God’s reputation, splendour and renown would be made known. After that, Jesus taught about asking for things for yourself and others.
Prayer, unfortunately is something far too many Christians talk about more than they carry out. When hearing of someone who is troubled, hurt or upset, the response is, “I’m praying for you”. When faced with a challenge or difficulty, “I’ll pray about it”. It comes up in conversation a lot. Two Christians will be talking about a problem or another thing and one will say, “I’ve been praying for you” or “I’ve been praying about that”.
Here’s the problem with all that. Most often, when someone says they prayed or will pray, what they sometimes mean is they will “think about it”. Very often, it doesn’t even mean that, it’s just a polite way to express concern or compassion. No prayer takes place and there is no intention to talk to God and ask his help with anything.
So, the next time you hear someone say, “I will pray about it” or “I prayed about it”, ask them, “What did you pray?” “When did you pray?” “With whom, to whom, for how long?”. And if they baulk, and are honest and admit they didn’t pray after all. Stop what you’re doing, bow your head on the spot and pray with them, right there, right then. You might find, once you really, actually do pray, that you’ll like it and develop a true habit of prayer. Especially when you notice that God answers prayers, not your intentions.