prayer isMaybe it’s because I’m co-teaching a class on prayer, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what prayer is. At one point, I could have given you a seven word answer. Prayer is when you talk to God.

That was then when I thought I knew.

This is now when I realize how much to learn. At this point, I realize that prayer is at least four different things.

1.  Prayer is when you talk to God.
At its most basic, prayer is when you talk to God. It is a time to tell God what you are worried about and what you need. Sometimes these things are for yourself, but sometimes they concern other people. Whichever, prayer is both a time to sing out in joy and to unburden yourself. Prayer is a time to talk to God.

2.  Prayer is when you listen to God.
Prayer isn’t just a time to talk. Prayer also involves silence, a time to shush up and listen. What does God have to say to you? You may actually hear God speak. You may feel a nudge in a certain direction. Or God may send a messenger to call you to whatever it is God wants you to do. When the response comes, however it comes, you may miss it if you’re busy talking. That’s why prayer also involves silence.

3.  Prayer is when you look to God.
Prayer isn’t just talking and listening. It is also a time to reorient yourself and look from the world and all of your earthly concerns to God. It is a time to contemplate who God is and what he wants from you. It is a time to consider the many gifts, including Grace, that he has given you. Look to God and when you turn back to the world you will see things differently.

4.  Prayer is when you lean on God.
Admittedly, there are times when life has worn you down so completely that you won’t have words to speak to God in prayer. You don’t know what to say. Instead, you lean. Leaning can take place any time you pray, but during difficult times, it may be the beginning, middle and end of your prayer time. That’s okay. God’s there for you, even when you don’t know what to say, are too sorrowful to hear, and are too broken to look up.

Speak. Listen. Look. Lean. Prayer is all this and more.