Why do you pray? For some of us prayer might be such an ingrained part of our day that it is second nature. For others of us prayer might seem confusing and daunting—how do we find the right words and how do we find the time? Prayer is an important part of our community of faith. We dedicate time in worship to pray together and throughout the week we send out prayer chain emails updating folks in the congregation about requests for prayer. Prayer is such an important part of this community’s life and of my own personal life, that I love asking that question and exploring a little deeper: why do we pray? Sometimes it seems like we pray because we are worried, worried about health, jobs, kids, family and friends, and our world. Often when we encounter difficult news like a scary diagnosis or violence in faraway countries, we feel powerless and unable to do much to help. In those moments perhaps we pray because there is nothing else we can do. But sometimes we pray because we are thankful for the good things in our lives, we might feel blessed and want to respond to that blessing. In Matthew 6:5, Jesus accuses hypocrites of praying so that they can seem holy to others, and perhaps some of that lives in us too. Numerous studies have attested to the physical and psychological health benefits of prayer, but I doubt those perks are really why we pray.
Ultimately I think the most important reason we pray is because prayer helps us know God, hear from God, and express our dependence on God. Prayer connects us with God and helps us to gain a fresh perspective. It reminds us that God is working in the world and inviting us to be a part of that work. And at its very root prayer is an act that attests to God’s presence with us. We do not pray to a God sitting up on a cloud, diligently taking notes. God is right here with us and prayer is a way of communicating and reaching out to that Holy Presence with us. That is why we pray. So take a moment, just a small moment to quiet your mind and pray.