Quotes: What is Prayer?

Man Praying. Artist Unknown. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Luke 11:1 NIV
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

Prayer takes place where heart speaks to heart, that is, where the heart of God is united with the heart that prays. Thus knowing God becomes loving God, just as being known by God is being loved by God. – Henri Nouwen, Behold the Beauty of the Lord

Something prowls in your heart that is true and powerful and it gives you life and moves you forward. It may not be belief. It may be a vague sense of how things ought to be, or hope disguised as loss. What is it? Sit still and let it emerge from the shadows. Let it speak, let it invite you. In what direction does it point you? Go there. That desire is the voice of God, pulling you closer. Follow it. – Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light

To pray is to descend with the mind into the heart, and there to stand before the face of the Lord, ever-present, all-seeing, within you.- Russian mystic Theophan the Recluse

Some things are proved by the unbroken uniformity of our experiences. The law of gravitation is established by the face that, in our experience, all bodies without exception obey it. Now even if all the things that people prayed for happened, which they do not, this would not prove what Christians mean by the efficacy of prayer. For prayer is request. The essence of request, as distinct from compulsion, is that it may or may not be granted. – C.S. Lewis, The World’s Last Night and other Essays

There is a huge difference between believing what God has promised and praying for things you’d like to be true. I encourage you to pray confidently for what God has promised. Don’t put your hope in what others promise or what you’ve been told you’ll “get” if you are a “good Christian” (e.g., a good job, financial success, the perfect spouse, healthy children, a big house, etc.). And ultimately, you need to stake your faith in God alone, not in the gifts (good as they may be) that He gives. It really comes down to trust. Do you trust God that when He says no or “not in this way” to you, you still believe He is good and doing what is best?
– Francis Chan, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit

How we Christians fear straying from the correct path! In our concern to do it right, we have forgotten how to respond spontaneously to an encounter with the Divine. We remain children, depending on someone else’s approval, in that most important core of our life, the spiritual. We don’t learn how to pray, only to say approved prayers. We sit at the dark edges of a richly laden banquet hall, hoping for a few crumbs that might fall our way. – Robert Lentz

Psalm 17:6 NIV
I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer.

In prayer we change our posture from reasoning to trusting, from thinking to conversing, from self-oriented meditation to communicating with God, from self-reliance to trusting in God, from me-centered to God-centered. Disciple II Bible Study: Into the Word, Into the World

I entered into the secret closet of my soul, led by Thee; and this I could do because Thou wast my helper. I entered, and behold with the mysterious eye of my soul the Light that never changes, above the eye of my soul, above my intelligence. It was not the common light which all flesh can see, nor was it greater yet of the same kind, as if the light of day were to grow brighter and brighter and flood all space. It was not like this, but different: altogether different from all such things. Nor was it above my intelligence in the same way as oil is above water, or heaven above earth; but it was higher because it made me, and I was lower because made by it. He who knoweth the truth knoweth that Light: and who knoweth it, knoweth eternity. Love knoweth it.
Augustine, Confessions

For me, 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. –Thérèse of Lisieux

Real prayer penetrates to the marrow of our soul and leaves nothing untouched. The prayer of the heart is a prayer that does not allow us to limit our relationship with God to interesting words or pious emotions. By its very nature such prayer transforms our whole being into Christ precisely because it opens the eyes of our soul to the truth of ourselves as well as to the truth of God…. The prayer of the heart challenges us to hide absolutely nothing from God and to surrender ourselves unconditionally to his mercy. – Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart

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