When we heard the gospel and believed, we prayed to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior and life. Afterwards, we probably continued to pray, asking God to help us in times of trouble, praying to Him on behalf of others, or asking Him for things we needed or wanted.
All of these are different ways we can pray to the Lord. But what is prayer? And how do we pray according to the Bible?
What does it mean to pray?
We pray to know the Lord Jesus, to develop our personal relationship with Him, and to speak to Him about our troubles, needs, and burdens. God is gracious and answers our prayers. But just as breathing air is the most fundamental need for our physical life, receiving more of the divine life continually is the most crucial need for our spiritual life. Prayer is the means by which we can obtain that life.
Simply put, prayer is our spiritual breathing.
Let’s first look at this verse:
“The last Adam became a life-giving Spirit.”—1 Corinthians 15:45
What the Lord wants to give us, and our greatest need day by day, even hour by hour, is His life. The Greek word for “Spirit” is pneuma. This same Greek word is used for “breath.” The Lord went through death, and now in resurrection He is the life-giving Spirit, or “breath.”
If prayer is our spiritual breathing, how do we inhale this life-giving breath? How do we receive this life-giving Spirit?
How do we pray?
When we want to do something, we use the right “organ.” We wouldn’t try to use our ears to eat or our nose to hear. We know our mouth is the right organ for eating and our ears are the right organs for hearing.
In order to pray, we need to use the right organ, which is our human spirit. Our soul, with its many thoughts and feelings, is not the right organ to pray to receive the life-giving Spirit. We’ve all experienced how our thoughts can take us around the world and back, instead of to the Lord. Our spirit, however, always takes us to the Lord.
Take a look at this verse:
“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truthfulness.”—John 4:24
The verse says we must worship, or contact, God who is Spirit with our human spirit. Our human spirit is our deepest part. As we contact the Spirit with our spirit in prayer, we “breathe” Him in and receive Him as the divine life, breath. He is our spiritual oxygen.
It takes practice, but we must learn to exercise our spirit as our proper praying organ. We’re used to exercising our mind, the major part of our soul. Because of this, our mind can be very strong and our spirit not so strong. To quiet the thoughts in our mind and to focus on exercising our spirit, it helps to open our mouth and audibly pray to the Lord.
Why do we need to pray?
Besides sustaining our spiritual life, prayer is the means for us to gain God.
The more we pray, the more we take in the spiritual breath and the more we are strengthened spiritually. We receive Him, the source of life, and “inhale” His Spirit as the spiritual breath for us to grow in His life.
Prayer is also a way for God to gain more of us. As we open to Him in prayer, giving Him the big things, the little things, and the in-between things of our lives, talking with Him and spending time in His presence, we allow God to make His home more in our hearts, little by little. As He makes His home in our hearts, our inward being will begin to match Him. Our thoughts, our feelings, our decisions, will be gradually filled with God.
What do we pray about?
When we pray, we simply need to be genuine with the Lord and contact Him with our deepest part, our spirit. It can be as simple as having an honest conversation with Him about our day, or about a situation we’re in. We can contact the Lord who lives inside us at any time, in any place, and about anything that’s on our hearts. This kind of genuine prayer will allow Him the room to work in us, and will give us the sense that we’ve taken a healthy, spiritual breath.
Additionally, when we’re spending time with the Lord in prayer, speaking to Him, listening for Him, and enjoying His presence, sometimes we’ll have a sense in our spirit that we should pray for something specific. The Lord may remind us of a friend He wants us to pray for, or a sin He wants us to confess to Him. We can then pray that back to the Lord according to the sense in our spirit.
The most important thing
Whether we are praying for a personal need or for the needs of someone else, and regardless of whether the Lord answers those prayers, the most important thing is that we contact the Lord with our spirit in prayer to breathe Him in. Through this kind of contact, our relationship with the Lord is deepened, we receive His life-giving Spirit, and our spiritual life is strengthened.