A prayer is any communication, particularly requests for some kind of relief, from the lowly to the elevated.
Virtually every document filed with a court ends with a prayer.
"Wherefore, the Defendant (or Plaintiff) prays that this honorable Court will ..."
Sticking to the theological, why should we pray? After all, God does not need our worship and knows us, all of our wants and needs, even better than we know ourselves.
We finite beings can never fully understand our infinite God. However, because Jews, Christians, and Moslems believe that we are "made in the image of God," we can look to human relationships for guidance.
Human beings cannot have a relationship with each other without communication. What happens within families when they stop talking with one another? Being made in the image of God, we infer that to have a relationship with God, we do so in the same way that we relate with each other, communication.
While God does not need a relationship with us, as his creation, we believe that he desires to have a relationship with us. We, on the other hand, cannot help but feel incomplete if we do not have a relationship with our Creator.
One of the principal benefits of prayer is that we develop a deeper relationship with God. We make ourselves more complete and fulfilled. After approximately 20 years of law practice, I am convinced that addiction is often the result of trying to cover an emptiness inside that God can fill.
How do we approach our creator? The principal ways are petitions for help, offering thanks, and blessings. As we can only understand things from the perspective of man, we use our interrelationships as guideposts in communicating with God.
Man frequently feels his imitations and is fearful. When things are beyond your control, where do you turn except to a higher authority who can control the situation? Often, that means God.
The Bible tells us that God wants us to come to Him with petitions for help. Moreover, we know that when someone comes to us for help, it makes us feel good. It is even more gratifying when we either successfully help solve the problem, or help them have peace with the problem. Therefore, we believe that God is gratified when people seek Him for help.
When someone helps you, it is natural to thank them. I know that every time I feed my Labrador, Rocky, he always looks up to me with thanks in his eyes, before he eats. I can't help but pat him on the head before I walk away.
It is rude to not thank someone who helps you. How do you feel when you go out of your way to help someone and they leave without saying thanks? We infer that it is similar with God.
A blessing is the infusion of something with holiness, spiritual redemptions, or divine will. Many people bless their food at meal time. Some have their homes or religious articles blessed. Fathers and mothers bless their children. Clergy bless their congregants. The ancient Jews would even bless God. The faithful bless to bring God more into their lives and the lives of others.
How should we pray?
Christians should be familiar with the Our Father, the prayer given to us by Jesus himself. We repeat the words of this prayer because Jesus said that this is how we should pray. We assume that it is pleasing to God for us to do so.
But the Our Father was also intended to be guidance for how to approach God in prayer. We should be reverent and mindful of our humble place as we approach the all powerful.
That the ultimate goal of prayer is to strengthen our relationship with God and help us to attain some share in His kingdom.
We should be mindful that no matter why we are approaching God with our prayers, it is His will and desires that are of ultimate importance. That it is OK to ask God for help with our tangible needs. We should also acknowledge our limitations and failings and be ever mindful that God may forgive us in the same measure that we forgive those who harm us. Finally, we should seek His help in either overcoming or avoiding that which is displeasing to God. Above all, we should not only say words of these sorts, but put them into practice.
My favorite Prayer uses God's own words and promises against him. I say this prayer daily because I believe that God said those words and made those promises for us to use. The prayer goes like this:
"Eternal Father, I offer you the body, blood, soul and divinity of your dearly beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and the sins of the whole world. Amen."