September 01, 2018

What Is Prayer?

Psalm 84

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.

—  Psalm 84:5

This month we are going to explore the mystery and majesty of prayer. At first we might think of prayer as mainly “communicating with God.” That’s a good start, but there’s much more to it.

At its core, prayer involves an ever-deepening relationship with God. Prayer cultivates a deep desire for God, the kind of longing for God that Psalm 84 expresses so well. Through prayer we are able to actually experience the presence of God.

In the Old Testament, God’s presence was most evident at the temple—the “courts of the Lord” poetically described in Psalm 84. The temple was God’s “dwelling place,” the destination of all who traveled on pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Notice that the psalmist describes people whose “hearts are set on pilgrimage.” This highlights the essence of prayer and the beauty of how we as New Testament believers experience God’s presence today. Because Jesus has paid the price for our sin and has opened the way for us into God’s presence, God is now present with his people through his Holy Spirit living in us. As a result, every Christian is now a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). So we can experience God’s presence through prayer anywhere and at any time. God has come to us. He is as close as our own hearts. To meet with God and grow closer to him, all we need to do is approach him in prayer.

Thank you, Lord, for the incredible gift of prayer. Make our hearts your dwelling place, filling us with your presence and guiding us always. Amen.

About the author — Peter Hoytema

Peter Hoytema has been a pastor for nearly 30 years and has served congregations in Ontario and New Jersey. He is currently the pastor of a congregation in Strathroy, Ontario. He is a graduate of Calvin Theological Seminary and San Francisco Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Grace, are the parents of four adult children.

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