What Is Prayer?

What Is Prayer?


The Journey to the Cross and Resurrection of Christ


Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.  Ephesians 6:18


Good morning Prayer Team!

It wasn’t until I had been a priest for a year and was twenty-seven years old that I learned what prayer is.  It happened the first time I went to summer camp as a priest.  I knew all the “lingo” of the priest, and encouraged people to “say their prayers” and “read their Bibles.”  Unless asked, I never offered to pray with people.  And I used the phrase “say your prayers” rather than “offer” them or “pray” them as if prayer was some sort of magic incantation that we offered to gain the favor of God.

I sat down to speak with one of the campers, who told me that he was angry with God about something that had happened in his life.  I asked him, “Do you ever pray about this?”  He said, “I’m angry at God, so I don’t pray to Him.”  It was one of those “lightbulb going off” moments in my life.  For some reason, (well I know the reason, God put it in my mind) the next thing I said to him was “Do you ever get angry with your mother?”  He said “yes, I get mad at her quite a bit.”  I asked him, “Do you still talk to your mother when you are angry with her?”  He answered “Yes, I still talk to her when I’m angry with her.”  So, I asked “Why?  Why keep talking to her if you are angry?”  He answered, “Well, first, she is still my mother and I love her; secondly, it is impossible for people to have a close relationship and never get angry or disappoint one another, and third, I still need stuff from her.”

As we continued the conversation, I suggested we apply the same logic to his relationship to God.  We should keep talking to God when we are angry, because He is still God and we still love Him, and He still loves us.  Secondly, it is impossible to have a close relationship with the Lord and never feel disappointed in Him.  And third, we need the Lord.

The young man replied, “I didn’t think it was okay to get angry with God.”  I asked him, “What would happen if I told you that you could never get angry with your mother?”  He answered, “Well, we probably wouldn’t have a genuine relationship.”  I told him, the same thing applies to our relationship with the Lord.  And then I suggested to him, that I would go to the back of the chapel we were sitting in and that he could stand in the front and say whatever he wanted to God.  I went and sat down, and he started screaming at God how disappointed he was with things in his life.  Eventually he said “Help me not be mad at You anymore, so that I can love You again.”  By this time, he was on his knees on the ground weeping.

And this is the day I learned the meaning of prayer.  Prayer is, simply put, communication with God.  In prayer we communicate our thanks and worship, our repentance of sins, our needs, our joys, our sorrows, our disappointments.  Nothing is off limits when praying.

Why do we need to pray?  It is the same reason we need to talk to those with whom we wish to have a relationship.  Communication is how we grow a relationship.  Communicating with God through prayer is how we grow our relationship with Him.

There are many ways to pray:

  1. Praying alone—This is something we should do on a daily basis. We should pray private prayers of devotion and supplication to the Lord.
  2. Praying for others—In our daily private prayers, we should pray for others. We should also ask for the intercessions (prayers) of the saints when we pray.
  3. Worship—In worship, we pray corporately, in the presence of others.
  4. Praying with others—Praying with someone, in their presence, is a very powerful thing and a very beautiful gift to offer someone else. It is only in recent years that I have gotten comfortable initiating this.  Certainly when people ask me, I have never said no.  But I didn’t always feel comfortable asking them.  This is one question that no one ever says no to.  “Can I pray with you?” always gets a positive response.

O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace. Help me in all things to rely upon Your holy will. In every hour of the day reveal Your will to me. Bless my dealings with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul, and with the firm conviction that Your will governs all. In all my deeds and words guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforeseen events let me not forget that all are sent by You. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering or embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of this coming day with all that it will bring. Direct my will, teach me to pray, pray You Yourself in me. Amen. (Prayer of St. Philaret of Moscow)

Pray today!  And every day!


+Fr. Stavros

Photo credit: desiringGod

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About author

Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0