“Prayer is, above all, a means of forming character. It combines freedom and power with service and love. What God gets out of our lives – and, indeed, what we get out of our lives – is simply the person we become. It is God’s intention that we should grow into the kind of person he could empower to do what we want to do. Then we are ready to ‘reign forever and ever’ (Rev. 22:5).” – Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy
If you think about it, it’s pretty remarkable that God uses the very act of honest prayer to transform us. Just engaging with him in conversation is enough to ignite the process – even when we don’t know the right words or just need someone to dump on.
In a lot of ways, this takes the pressure off. Because prayer is talking with a being who is fully with, yet infinitely ahead of us, we can let go of our meaningless rituals and performance anxiety and simply be in his presence.
We share where we’re at, what we want, what we need. We talk about the problems in and around us. We express our desire for his will to be done. We whine. We praise. We listen. We wander. We fidget. We wait.
And in the midst of all this, God is near. Not because we got it “right”, but because he is good. He receives all our jumbled thoughts, words, emotions, and anxieties and uses them to draw us closer to him.
Is there a right way to pray? Yes and no. We have clear scriptural examples and instructions to follow, such as the Lord’s Prayer. But because prayer is relational conversation with the living God, there’s also a lot of leeway. We can trust that he is gracious enough to meet us in our imperfections and big enough to work through even our smallest responses to his presence.