A.S.K. – The Key to Prayer : Chapter 1 – What Is Prayer?

The storm was threatening to meet us about 45 miles before we reached home. The forecast as for the rain to change to snow, and that snow would be blowing in on 30-40 mph winds. I with a 3-hour drive ahead of us, we started out hoping for the best and saying a prayer that the storm would not produce what was forecast. As we traveled closer and closer, I kept checking the future radar, and nothing changed. The snow had actually reached to just north of our destination on it’s steady march to the southeast.

We made a stop about an hour from home and once again I checked the radar, expecting to see the snow closing in on us. Much to my surprise, a dry patch had worked its way into the storm center and it was starting to influence the advancement of the snow. Actually, the snow was now moving backwards, traveling to the northwest instead of towards us. This is unheard of in Iowa! Snow just doesn’t travel that way. I had spent some time with God in prayer, and my petition was heard and answered. The rest of the drive, there was absolutely no precipitation.

If you asked a hundred people, you would probably get 50 or 60 different answers. Some might say it is meditation to reach a higher level of consciousness. Some might say it consist of bowing to the East 5 times a day while petitioning their God. Others would say it I dancing and chanting around a fire to appease a higher spirit. Then some might say it is just crawling inside yourself and thinking about what you’d like to become. The interesting thing is that all of these answers are correct! Prayer is different to everyone and they all have their own method of accomplishing it. For this study, we will stick with the Christian religion alone, but may make reference to other belief systems along the way. To cover all religions and all beliefs would simply take too much time. Besides that, the things we bring up here would be somewhat the same in other religious practices, and can be tailored to those as well.

According to the on-line dictionary, prayer if defined as
“a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship.”

Wikipedia carries this definition:
“Prayer (from the Latin precari “to ask earnestly, beg, entreat”)[1] is an invocation or act that seeks to activate a rapport with an object of worship through deliberate communication.”

In the Bible, the Hebrew Old Testament word used for prayer is “tephilla”. This word means to entreaty supplication, or intercession for someone else. It can also be a spiritual hymn or song. It is used 77 times in the Old Testament, always with a sense of reverence. Some of the scriptures that use this word are:

1 Kings 8:28
28 Yet have thou respect unto the prayer (tephilla) of thy servant, and to his supplication, O LORD my God, to hearken unto the cry and to the prayer (tephilla), which thy servant prayeth before thee to day:
2 Chronicles 7:14-15
14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
15 Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attent unto the prayer (tephilla) that is made in this place.
Psalm 4:1
4 Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer (tephilla).

In the New Testament the Greek word is “proseuche”, and can mean prayer to God or a place set aside for prayer. If you go back to the root it actually comes from a word meaning to wish for. It is used 37 times in the New Testament. A few verses where this is used:

Matthew 21:22
22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer (proseuche), believing, ye shall receive.

Acts 6:4
4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

Philippians 4:6
6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

Now all that is wonderful, but it really doesn’t tell us what prayer actually is, does it? The definitions and the Biblical words don’t tell us how to go about praying – how to accomplish it in practical way. That is what we will attempt to do with this study.

This chapter will focus on what prayer is. We will look at 4 methods of defining prayer, each a little different than the other. Then we will investigate scripture to show how these 4 principles do the best to define prayer. These 4 areas are conversation with God, communication with God, faith-in-action, and the core principal of this book – A.S.K.! In the ensuing posts, we will look at each one of these individually to give us all a better understanding of what prayer really is.

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