Reflections On Prayer
By Rev. Caroline Osborne
Recently, in preparation for my Zoom Bible Study, I decided to look up the definition of prayer. One of the places I looked was The Book of Common Prayer. Toward the back of the prayer book, there is a section called “The Catechism,” which is used to teach people preparing for confirmation about all the core ideas of our faith. The Catechism is set up in a question and answer format, and this is what it had to say about prayer:
What is prayer?
Prayer is responding to God, by thought and by deeds, with or without words.
This fascinated me because the first thing it says is that prayer is a response to God. So often we think of ourselves as initiating prayer or of prayer as a response to a certain situation. Instead, our prayer book is clear that prayer is a response to God. God always initiates prayer. What does that mean?
At its heart, I think it means that prayer would be impossible if God had not made it possible. At the most basic level, he placed in humans the recognition that there is something greater than us and the desire to communicate with that something. But more than that, we can only approach God with expectation and confidence that he hears and cares because of the work of Jesus. As the book of Hebrews notes, since Jesus is in Heaven interceding on our behalf, “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Elsewhere, the Apostle Paul writes that, because we have received the Holy Spirit and are adopted as God’s children, “When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God…” (Romans 8:15b-16).
With these verses in mind, it is clear our prayers are inevitably a response to God’s work of salvation in our lives because, without that work of salvation, we would be unable to approach him in prayer. No matter what our prayer is, when we pray, we are responding to God’s mercy, we are resting in his promises, and we are putting our hope in his love for us. What a beautiful thought!