Yesterday, my sister asked on facebook, “Looking for honest, simple answers here. Just a curiosity for me on what others think on the topic. What is the purpose of prayer? Do you think prayer has affected your life? How so? (Can you tell I’m doing some reading???)”
I so appreciated the answers that followed that I began to think about how I would answer the question off the cuff, without substantial research.
Here is what I typed:
Hi Grace, I think the purpose of prayer is exactly what Faith said: relational—it is us engaging in the relationship and conversation that God already started.
Here is my stab at defining prayer:
Prayer is an act of communication with God, through which I declare that God is God, acknowledge that I am not God, (willingly or grudgingly) submit my will to His, and rejoice in the reality that because He loves me, He will hear me and respond.
Prayer can also be corporate, and I think real corporate prayer (with the appropriate pronoun shifts) could be defined in pretty much the same way.
I know you said honest and simple, I hope that qualifies.
As for “How so?” I think I’m I the same page as Nick: God changes me and has chosen to use prayer as one of His methods. With prayer He changes how I think, how I feel, and how I relate to others. As I submit my will to His, I learn to walk in His peace, even when times are tumultuous, and even when the right response to a situation is big and loud.
And, with prayer, I discover (and re-discover) that our heavenly Father is willing to intercede on Earth and change things that even in my best Machiavellian or Medical scenarios could not be changed. He softens hearts, mends relationships, convicts of sin, mends broken bones, and removes cancer.
I guess another way to put it is: Prayer is my submitting all to the will of God knowing/trusting/believing that He will always do the right thing (even if I can never understand why it was right).