What Is Prayer?

Published 5:17 pm Friday, July 22, 2022

By Ann-Marie Montegue

A good question, but not really hard to answer. My kindergarten teacher, Sister Stella, defined prayer as simply talking with God.  I have to admit, I not only remember this idea from many decades ago, I really believe it to be true.  You see, when you are speaking or talking with someone, anyone, you are taking part in a two-way conversation.  First one person speaks to the other person, then remains silent to hear the other person’s response or comment on what was just said.  It is a true “give and take” event.

Now think about prayer in this manner.  We come to God in prayer and speak words of thanks, or petition/asking.  Perhaps we just say something to God that is on our minds or in our hearts.  Now comes the good part; we keep still and listen for God’s response.  Perhaps we receive a calming feeling if we were anxious; perhaps we experience a joyful noise such as a bird singing or a baby laughing.  Perhaps there is just silence, but we know and believe that God hears us, knows our thoughts and feelings, and because of our faith we acknowledge that God will answer our questions, our petitions, our acknowledgements of God’s glory.  Also because of our faith, we know that when we go to God in prayer with a question or petition or anything else, God’s time to answer us is not always going to be immediate.  You see, God’s time is not our time; God works on a different level than we do.

Sometimes when we pray, words do not come easily to us; sometimes words do not come at all.  Even the holiest of saints tell us that they went through “dry” periods in their prayer lives.  Sometimes those very same dry times are when God is closest to us, holding us and taking care of us, even when we feel it not.  That is the greatness of our God. God loves us even when we don’t realize it, even when we think we don’t feel God’s presence with us.  Again, our faith tells us God is there, God will never abandon us or forsake us. We CAN take God for granted in that regard.

When we feel the most alone, just sit and observe the wonderful world all around us. The beautiful Carolina-blue sky; the lovely Pamlico River; our lovely parks and walk-ways.  Look at the ducks and geese along the waters near Jack’s Creek or the cranes and various birds that fly overhead.  Thomas Aquinas taught that the wonderful natural world all around us was just one of the theological proofs of the existence of almighty God.  St. Ignatius liked to just look up at the stars in the night sky and talk with the Almighty.

You see, prayer can take many forms, can be done anywhere and at any time.  Prayer doesn’t cost you any dollars or cents.  Prayer doesn’t require special equipment, cell phones or land lines! But prayer does require you to want to have this special communication with God.

Just like a very close friend or parent, God wants us to talk with Him.  God wants us to share our thoughts and feelings, as well as our petitions.  My hope today is that you will take the time, however long or short, and have a good talk with your God. He is listening!

Ann-Marie Montague is a Beaufort County resident and a licensed lay preacher in the Episcopal Church.