Q&A: What is prayer?

What is prayer?

Question

What is prayer?

Answer

Prayer is communication and communion with God. It is not unlike letters or emails where communicating is with words. In prayer we tell God both our feelings, desires, sins, and also remind him of his promises to us as his children. But prayer can use more than just words to communicate. Sometimes joy, laughter, and even tears communicate. God understands our entire person with all its emotions, expressions, and feelings. However, communication is only one main aspect of prayer.

Prayer is personal and certainly goes beyond just words in a letter or an e-mail. It is a real relationship - communion with God himself. There should be an intimacy in prayer where one can just be real with God. Though in one respect we should honor and respect God our Father, there is another side of God we need to connect with also, and that's Abba, Father.

Someone once asked me if prayer was like sex with God. I was kind of surprised by the question (and abhor any literal image this may create in one's mind). But after some thought, I could see their point that intimacy with God should be so close, so familiar, so real, so revealing, that one may in the proper manner use this as a careful illustration of true prayer, because God is VERY intimate. The church is, after all, the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:22 ff). God foreknew (proginokso) his elect (Rom. 8:29), and Adam knew (ginosoko) Eve and she bore a child (Gen. 4:1). I would, however, probably feel more comfortable using the term "wrestle" (Gen. 32:24-32) than "sex" to describe such intimacy with God. Regardless, both terms help us understand what communion is about.

NOTE: Any illustration may be taken too far, even those in Scripture. Please DO NOT take these any further than they are meant. In regards to the matter at hand, we should think of God as being intimate, but not having literal sexual intercourse with another.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).