The True Practice of Prayer

By Fr Jason Bowman

Prayer As Relationship

“Prayer is a surge of the heart, it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”

– St. Therese of Lisieux


Jesus taught his disciples to begin their prayers by addressing God as Father. When we think of prayer as talking to our Father, it situates prayer properly as a relational practice with someone who loves us and cares about what is happening in our lives. This shapes how we approach God and what we might say to Him. It forms the foundation for daily prayer.

It certainly shaped the daily prayer life of Jesus. He taught his disciples to begin their prayers by calling God Father because he began his prayers by calling God Father. The Gospels record Jesus praying often, but contain very little of what he said in those prayers. Only 8 times do the biblical writers report some or all of a prayer from Jesus. Yet, in 7 of those, Jesus begins by addressing God as Father.

It also goes beyond just a title. Jesus established this relational component and then prayed out of that. When we consider the content of his prayers, we have to erase any notion of God being some distant deity. The prayers of Jesus are intimate. He does not just petition his Father for things, but most often shares the things in his life with his Father.

Consider this short prayer from Jesus: “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me” (John 11:41).

Notice there is no petition here. Jesus is praying, but he not asking for anything. Instead he is sharing with his Father. Furthermore, the information Jesus shares serves the purpose of “informing” God about Jesus’ own thought process. He essentially takes the time to explain to God why he is doing what he is doing. Doesn’t God already know that? Why share it? Jesus shares this out of his profound relationship with his Father. He shares it because he wants to share it with God.

Prayer is about relationship with our Father. We begin by addressing God as our Father so that we can confidently share our lives with Him as one who intimately cares for us. God does not look for us to use the right words so that he will listen. He simply wants to hear the heart of His child.


Practice

Take some time to sit with God. Share with your Father how you are feeling, what is bothering you, what is making you happy, and what thoughts are circling your brain.

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