Whenever there is a national tragedy such as a mass shooting or natural disaster, two phenomena can reliably be observed. First, people offer or ask for prayers. Second, others respond by criticizing, even mocking prayer. They argue that we need to turn to science, not faith, to solve problems. Atheist public intellectuals often make a similar case against prayer: that because evidence that it is effective is lacking, it is a waste of precious time and energy. It appears many critics don’t realize that empirical evidence reveals that prayer can be quite helpful.
Prayer is, for the most part, an untapped resource, an unexplored continent where untold treasure remains to be unearthed.
F.B. Meyer, the author of the great little book, The Secret of Guidance said, “The great tragedy of life is not unanswered prayer, but un-offered prayer.”
Instead of it being something we do everyday, like breathing, eating and walking and talking, it seems to have become like that little glass covered box on the wall that says, “break in case of emergency.” It is true that so very often we associate prayer with crises in our life.
1. Prayer is talking with God.
It’s easy to complicate prayer. There is a place for detailed, theologically-precise definitions of prayer. I could write a paragraph-length one that included most of the points found in this article. And while it might be a thorough and helpful explanation (more than a definition) of prayer, it wouldn’t be memorable. So while there is a lot of important biblical information to understand about prayer, at its essence prayer is simply talking with God.
2. Prayer is acceptable to God only in Jesus’s name.
All access to God—including prayer—is possible only through the merits of who Jesus is and what he has done. Jesus made this plain in John 14:6: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” But to pray “in Jesus’s name” is not accomplished simply by adding (often mindlessly) those words at the end of a prayer; rather, it is to pray with reliance on what Jesus has done for us and not the worthiness of who we are or what we have done. See also the emphasis made by Jesus on praying in his name in John 14:13 and John 16:23-24.