The biblical portrait of the Christian Church presents the picture of a people at prayer. All action flows from this central activity. The Church makes her greatest progress when marching on her knees; her vision of the future is clearest when she looks forward with her head bowed. Her hands outstretched in service are filled with divine compassion as they are lifted up as an offering to God.
We are often tempted to think of prayer as simply the necessary means to reach some sanctified end. This would be a tragic mistake. To think that prayer is only a tool to be wielded is to misunderstand its surpassing glory as gracious gift. It would be like playing marbles with diamonds.
Prayer should be understood chiefly as an expression of God’s own self-determination to give Himself to us; the blessed condescension of Mighty God to mortal man through beneficent self-disclosure in order that lowly creature might walk with Him in light. Prayer is first and foremost communion with God. In prayer we feel the celestial breeze blowing upon our faces as we walk with our Father in the cool of the day. Through prayer we are able to draw near to Light Unapproachable and press our lips against the ear of the Almighty, whispering, “Abba. Father.”
By prayer we are brought into the Great Conversation; we are privileged to throw in our lot with countless fathers, brothers, sisters, and mothers which comprise that glorious company of the General Assembly and Church of the Firstborn—the spirits of just men made perfect. Thus to say, “I believe in the communion of saints,” is to confess one of the particular beauties of that multifaceted mystery which is prayer.
More staggering still is the realization that prayer takes us up into the very life of God. This gift of communion flows from the wellspring of that even deeper gift; that fount of perpetual benediction—union with God through Christ by the Spirit. This is the source of all true praying; the Father Breathing forth the Divine Word from all eternity, Trinity in Unity sharing together infinite perfection, everlastingly lavishing the Inseparable Other with limitless love. Then, when God was ready for time to begin its momentous journey of ticks and tocks, He lifted up His voice and prayed. Creation came into being as a result of the Communing God conferring with Himself—the Speaker, the Spoken, and the Breath of the Almighty—calling those things that were not as though they were.
Rather than conceiving of prayer as something which is unflatteringly creaturely, we should ask ourselves whether there is really anything that is more divine than prayer. When we pray to our Father in heaven, through His Son Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit we are entering into a holy activity which has known no beginning and will meet no final end. So there was perhaps never a more ambitious request made than that of the disciples of Jesus when they said, “Lord, teach us to pray.”