Christian Spirituality: How Significant Is Prayer to the Christian Life?

Topics: Christianity, Jesus, Gospel of Matthew, Holy Spirit, God, God in Christianity / Pages: 10 (2468 words) / Published: Nov 10th, 2010
Christian Spirituality Essay
1. How significant is prayer to the Christian life? What lessons can we learn from Jesus’ practice of prayer?

In beginning this essay, I think it is only sensible to get the the root of the question. To start with, what exactly do we mean by “prayer”? The Oxford English Dictionary defines “prayer” as: “1) a request for help or an expression of thanks made to God.”[1]
Other dictionary definitions follow the spirit of this definition: “a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship...[2]” “to ask for with earnestness and submission... petition and thanksgiving...”[3] “a devout petition to God or an object of worship.”[4]

Admittedly these definitions seem incredibly simplistic and remarkably similar. This is may well be because the word “prayer” originates from Old French preiere, based on Latin precarius “obtained by entreaty”[5]. To me, these definitions rather seem to promote the wider secular view that prayer itself is merely an “ask-get-thank-you” exchange between human and God. However, contemporary Christian spiritual writers and mystics through to the present day seem to take on a much more deeply relational angle to the definition and practise of prayer. They refer to prayer as transforming encounters of communion with God, which we will look into in more depth presently. I have been hard pressed to find any writer of the Christian Faith that will say explicitly that Prayer is not a vital part of the Christian Life. So instead, to get a quick idea of the general response to prayer within Christian circles, I felt it appropriate to consult a few Christian “thinkers” about why in their view prayer is important. Author and Theologian, Dr Martin Robinson[6], summarises the two-fold benefit of prayer – regarding personal formation and prayer's wider impact for spiritually influencing matters of the World in which we live: “It is important because it keeps

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