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What is Prayer?

  • Thelma Wells
  • Published Jan 06, 2004
What is Prayer?
You may ask, "How can I pray when I may not know what prayer is?" Someone has said, “Prayer is the heart’s sincere desire unspoken or expressed.”  Prayer is communicating with God, sharing with God your dreams and desires, listening to God for answers to your prayers, calling on God when you are in distress, thanking God for His goodness to you.

Prayer is opening up and expressing to God exactly what you feel about a situation.  Yes, even yelling at God as you try to understand your heartaches and disappointments.

After leading a young man in a prayer to receive Jesus as His Savior, I suggested to him that he begin to pray everyday.  His comment was, “But I don’t know how to pray.”  I responded, “Do you know how to talk?”  A little shocked at my response, he answered, “Sure!” 

“Well, I said, if you can talk you can pray.”  Just open your mouth and tell God whatever you need to tell Him or ask Him whatever you need to ask Him.  It’s so much easier talking to God than talking to a person. 

A person like me might take your sentence and try to tell you what you’re trying to say.  If someone is having a hard time saying something, I’m tempted to take his or her sentence and run with it.  God won’t do that! 

A person may misinterpret what you’re saying to them.  God never misinterprets.  In fact, He already knows what you need before you ask.  Therefore, you’re safe talking to God about anything.  He will hear and answer your prayers. God’s answers are always for our good!  

May you’re saying or thinking, “I asked God for this or that and He has not answered me yet.” That’s not always true. God answers our prayers in His own time because His time is not our time. 

God answers prayers in several ways.  Sometimes He says yes.  Sometimes He says no.  Sometimes He says wait.  Talking to God is like talking to a good parent.  If a child asks a parent for something that will do the child good, the parent may say, “Yes.”  If a child asks a parent for something harmful to that child, the parent may say, “No.”  If the child asks a parent for something the child is not ready for, even though it may be good for them, the answer may be, “Wait.”  God is the best Father we can have. 

Before there was ever a star in the sky God already had our circumstances worked out, our prayers answered.  There is absolutely no particular timing with God because He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End to all things in the universe.  Nothing surprises God.  Not the good, the bad, or the ugly.  He knows our innermost thoughts, all our actions and reactions.  He is the Almighty God who sees, knows, listens, hears, and acts on every word. 

The fact that we cannot see God’s answers is not an indication that He is not in the process of revealing His answer to us.  He’s always working behind the scenes to work things out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.

One thing I’ve discovered about prayer is that usually my prayers involve other people.  For example, if I’m praying for a certain presentation, I may have a meeting planner, pastor, president, and other people involved in the request to God. Maybe I’m praying for a person’s healing and that person has decided they want the ultimate healing, death.  Perhaps I’m praying for a loved one to be saved and they refuse to accept Jesus as their Savior.  There might be a broken relationship that I want mended but the other person is rejecting my desires. 

God understands all the people and circumstances in our prayers and works things out according to what is good for all of us when we submit ourselves to His perfect will.

Recently, I had two vibrant friends die of cancer. Many of us prayed and prayed and prayed for their healing.  Both these ladies gave up their will to live and consequently died early deaths for their ages. Why would God not answer our prayer?  He certainly could have.  He has the power to do anything but fail.  He could have even changed their will to die to a will to live.  But He didn’t. 

God has said that the days of our lives are numbered and only He knows when our time on this earth is over.  It would be futile for me to get angry with God because He did not answer our prayers the way we wanted Him to because He knows the end from the beginning.  He allowed them the privilege of understanding that their time was about over and they both died in dignity leaving a legacy of a life well lived.  God was ready for them.

We can’t understand God’s timing.  We can know that He never makes a mistake. God does not answer all prayers the way I want Him to.  But I’ve always experienced a great lesson or something better as results.


Thelma Wells is president of A Woman of God Ministries, Dallas, Texas; a Woman of Faith conference speaker; a professor at Master's School of Divinity and the author of Girl, Have I Got Good News For You! and other encouraging resources.

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