Menu Close

What Is Prayer?

What is prayer? Let’s start simply and go back to the basics. Pastors Wyatt Martin and Steve Brooks break down what prayer is, what the Bible shows us about prayer, what Jesus does when he prays, and how we can apply this to our own prayer lives.

Show Links:



Purposely. Your life. God’s purpose. Listen at

Narrator: Welcome to Purposely Equipped. We want to help you go deeper in your faith by learning truth from the Bible. Our new series, Why Pray, will help us discover what the Bible has to say about the importance of prayer in building our relationship with Jesus. Pastors Wyatt Martin and Steve Brooks from Alderwood Community Church will be helping us with this five-episode series, as we look at, Why Pray?

Wyatt Martin: Well, see, this is kind of fun. We get to partner with Purposely Equipped, do a series on prayer, “Why Pray?” I’m really excited to be doing this with you.

Steve Brooks: Yeah. Our friends with CRISTA have given us a really cool opportunity here.

Wyatt Martin: Yeah. So, we’re gonna take this in five episodes all different kinds of things about prayer today. Just gonna start with, what is prayer?

Steve Brooks: Well, when you think of the word prayer, the little word association here, what, what comes to mind?

Wyatt Martin: Okay. I mean, all kinds of things come to mind. I mean, we are in our family. We, we pray before we eat meals together. I think right now of it’s part of our bedtime routine with our two kids.

Oh yeah. So, for me, one of the associations is prayer is lying down next to my two year old son who has no interest whatsoever in going to bed, or listening to a prayer, or I he’s just talking over me while I’m praying to him. And one day we’ll get that sorted out. the, but if I’m being honest, when I think about my own prayer life, one of the first associations and this isn’t actually a good one for me, but it’s just true, one, one of my first associations is a feeling of prayer is something that I should be doing more of and I’m not. Yeah. And. I, I wonder if there’s people listening to this who are gonna resonate with that? I’m, I’m sure there will be at least some, but I, I actually think that’s detrimental because it, it puts prayer in this category of an obligation. Of a, of a kind of a, a checkbox something that if I was a better Christian, I would do more of, and what I hope we can talk about a little bit in this series and invite people into is just prayer is actually, it’s a gift to be enjoyed. It’s something that is really an amazing way to experience our creator and to build a relationship with Jesus. And there’s so much good that can come from it that rather than thinking like, oh, okay, I really should be doing this. I hope we can come outta this series going, man, I really want to be prayed more. And that’s a little bit of a different thing in my mind.

Steve Brooks: Yeah. And our fourth episode, great question we’ve been given, praying when it’s hard. How do, how do we do that? I, my first association is actually kind of both the positive and the negative of what you said. I mean, just reading the gospels lately.

I, you just always struck when you read the gospels. Jesus is just constantly praying. Doesn’t make a big deal out of it. Just, you know, it’s kind of in the background there and Jesus went and spent the whole night praying. Jesus went to a quiet place and prayed. It’s just like, I mean, if you, if you did like a bio of Jesus, what are Jesus’ hobbies?

Jesus prays. Yeah. And it’s as natural to him as breathing, which on the one hand is really inspiring. Like, I want to be like that as a follower of Jesus and yeah, like you at the same time, it’s kinda like, it’s not that natural or easy for me most of the time. So, really good question we’re asking.

Wyatt Martin: Yeah. Okay. So, let’s just start from, from the ground up here. Simplest way to start. What is prayer? I think is just to think, prayer is communicating with God. It could take all kinds of forms. It can be verbal. It can be non-verbal. It can be formal. It can be something you can read a prayer. You know, many church traditions have liturgies with prayers that together you read, and you didn’t even write the word. So, it’s not something that you came up with, but you’re still saying something to God that has been prepared for you. You can be spontaneous. It can be, and I think it can be all over the map in emotion too. You can be angry. You can be sad. You can be, you know, At the top of a mountain, you can all kinds of things, but in some way, shape or form, prayer is communicating with God.

Steve Brooks: Yeah. I’m like back in my high school, English class, all the different kinds of speeches we learned, you know, there’s the informative, the persuasive, the entertaining. I mean, yeah. You look at the Bible and there’s so many different forms of prayer. So, why’d, if we tried to anchor that here, like, could we, could we try to find a starting point? Like. Like, what about the Lord’s prayer?

Wyatt Martin: Yeah, I think that’s the best place to start. I mean, this is one of the rare things where Jesus actually says, I am going to teach you how to do something, and that’s what Jesus says. I’m going to teach you how to pray. This is then how you should pray is how Jesus begins in the book of Matthew and this part of the sermon on the Mount. What I hope we can do, maybe you can read this for us in just a second. Sure. But we’re gonna keep coming back to this prayer from Jesus as we go through this whole series. And we talk about, you know, why we should pray and how we should pray. And what about praying when we’re hard? We’re gonna keep coming back to this model that Jesus gives us about prayer, because I think it is this short, sweet prayer, but it is kind of mysteriously, so, there’s so much depth to it. Yeah. It’s and it’s actually, you know, fairly complex. Also, there’s different things going on in this prayer and a lot that we can learn. And so, as we think about what prayer is from Jesus, the Lord’s prayer is where we start. Why don’t you go ahead and read that to us?

Steve Brooks: Yeah. This is found in Matthew 6:9, “This then is how you should pray. Our father. In heaven, hallowed, be your name. Your kingdom come your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us, not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Wyatt, I read that in the NIV are used to hearing that in the King James, like I was used to?

Wyatt Martin: Yeah, for some reason, there’s like an unwritten law that everybody has to say the Lord’s prayer in the King James. But I’m glad we’re using the NIV. A little bit more simple language. Even the NIV though uses kind of a King James word, “our father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” What does that mean?

Steve Brooks: Yeah, I mean, it’s interesting that that is one word I don’t think has changed from King James or hardly any other version, because it’s a difficult word to translate. The idea is, let your name be holy. Like it, it’s actually a request. He’s asking God to make his name holy, to set his name apart. So, it shines. So, people, you know, are drawn to it. So, yeah, it’s a very interesting phrase that we don’t use too much in everyday language.

Wyatt Martin: So, when we, we see Jesus’ prayer here and, I mean, it’s interesting that he says this then is how you should pray. What do you think Jesus is expecting of us in that? Like, is Jesus expecting that every time we pray, we’re just going to repeat this prayer that he’s given us. Like, this is the, this is the one kind of authorized prayer from Jesus, and everything else is outside the bounds. Or like, what does Jesus mean when he’s. Says, this is how you should pray.

Steve Brooks: Yeah. I, I think what he’s pointing to is not just a repetitive, you know, by rote. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Like, I, I often am super encouraged when I pray this with a group of people in church together, or even on my own time. But I think what he’s doing is he’s giving us kind of an index. Kind of a category-by-category way to think through our prayers, what we want to try to convey to God.

Wyatt Martin: Yeah. So, okay. I agree. And I mean, in case anybody’s wondering if we are just making that up, if that’s really true. I mean, Jesus prayed all kinds of different prayers in the gospels. He didn’t just pray this. Yeah. Jesus prayed all night long. It’s not like he was just all night just saying this over and over. So, this is some sort of, yeah, category an index. It’s giving you aspects of prayer to, to imitate, to take into your own life and to pray in your own words with your own life things going on. So if, if we take it that way, what are some things that just right off the top we can take from Jesus’ prayer to give us some, some sort of indication about what he expects prayer to be like?

Steve Brooks: Well, you know why we just went through a series on the kingdom of God. And I mean, that phrase, I actually spent a whole Sunday speaking about the words, ” Our Father.” yeah. It’s just so striking before this time, the Jews did not ever in the old Testament, pray to God as father. Jesus presents us with this beautiful intimate picture of God. Not just as this sovereign king of creation, but as this intimate father. So that jumps right out at you.

Wyatt Martin: Yeah. And I think, you know, ask that question. What is prayer? It’s communicating with God. This starts to fill that out a little bit more. Prayer is communicating with a God who wants a personal relationship with you. To pray to God as father, that is not to pray to some distant spirit being. That is not to pray to, you know, a force in the universe, like star wars or anything like that.

Like this is a personal relationship. It’s a communication between two persons that there’s intimacy there that I think is really important for us to get for of what prayer ought to be.

Steve Brooks: Yeah. And it starts there. Right? It it’s so important that we recognize that, that intimate relationship that we have. The word our too, I think is just a word that’s easy to read by, but you know, why did he say our father instead of my father? Well, in a very real sense, our father is our father because Jesus brings us into the presence of God. We couldn’t come without him. So, if it’s not my father and Jesus’ father, I don’t get to come.

Wyatt Martin: And there’s a communal aspect to it as well. Like Jesus is teaching this to a group of his followers. And sometimes I think we think of prayer is just this, me and God. Yeah. It’s this individualistic thing. It’s something that happens in my own head between me and God. Actually, though we see Jesus give us the example of praying as brothers and sisters in Christ together. So, we pray in church services. We pray in our living rooms. We pray in life groups. You know, that is actually a that’s kind of the norm in the new Testament. There’s all this prayer that’s happening together as the body of Christ.

Steve Brooks: Yeah. And you know, like one thing that’s absent from this prayer is anything that looks like praying for someone else, until you see that very important pronoun. You know, Jesus is teaching that if it’s our father and you’re my brother in Christ, I do pray for you as well as myself, when I ask for our daily bread.

Wyatt Martin: Yeah. Let’s keep going through the prayer and just take out a few more things as we come across it. Hallowed be your name. Your name be holy. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. You know, in my mind, one of the things is that Jesus is teaching about prayer here, is that prayer is in some way a, an act of aligning yourself with God. Which is actually the reverse of somehow when we think what prayer is that where prayer is primarily getting God to do what you want him to do. You know, getting God to align with you. Jesus actually starts in the opposite place.

One, let, let’s start by recognizing god is holy. He’s above us. He’s separate. I’m gonna pray that his kingdom will be done here on earth, as it is in heaven. That God’s will, whatever he desires, how he wants things to be, that that would be what’s implemented in our life here on earth. And I think that’s a really important posture to get from this as we, as we hear Jesus’ prayer.

Steve Brooks: Yeah. We’ll talk more about that, but I, I think it’s absolutely huge. And we’re asking the question why we pray. Well, If it starts with me asking basically not my will, but yours, be yours be done, which is a prayer we hear from Jesus, of course, famously later on. Prayer is not really, like you said so much about me changing God as God changing me. I’m asking God to do something in my heart to align my desires with his desires, that I would try to make my world look like his world. Where justice and love and truth prevail. So, yeah, that’s a really important starting point.

Wyatt Martin: And I think it’s important too, because if you miss that point about prayer, if you miss that what it is is a way for you to become aligned with God’s will, if you think it’s the other way, if you kind of picture prayer as the cosmic vending machine, you go to God to get what you want from him, likely that’s gonna lead to some disillusionment, some discouragement. I mean, some of these hard questions of why does it feel like God’s not answering me? Why is he not doing what I’m asking him to do? It could be that your starting point was off. That you expect prayer to be something that it just actually isn’t.

And yet, there is a very real aspect of prayer, which is asking God for what you need. And Jesus doesn’t ignore that at all. It’s the very next thing, right? The very next thing in verse 11, give us today our daily bread. What’s the importance of that in your mind, Steve?

Steve Brooks: You know, a little backdrop on that. It’s super interesting. For years, they couldn’t find any Greek literature that had the same word, for daily bread. And so, what the early commentators did is they totally over spiritualize. It’s like it, can’t just be talking about a loaf of pumper nickel. Yeah, you know, it’s like, it must be some kind of bread from heaven. And then they found later on like in a garbage dump, there was a grocery list from first century Greece, where it had a bunch of things that a wife had written for her husband to pick up, and it had this word, daily bread.

Wyatt Martin: Some things just never changed.

Steve Brooks: They don’t change. Yes. The, he was probably going to Costco with his phone again. Yeah. Like I often do.

The point is though, you know, this is so earthy. Like God is very concerned about our very earthly needs, whether that’s an empty stomach or whether that’s, you know, a shortage of funds, or a new home or a job. It’s very down to earth.

Wyatt Martin: Well, let’s not forget who Jesus is talking to here as he’s teaching people to pray. I mean, he’s talking to likely many people who are trying to just earn enough to feed their families every day and get by. Like the, the lack of daily bread was not some theoretical spiritualized thing. It was very real, you know. These were parents with kids that they loved and needed to care for and, you know, likely there were days, maybe weeks where they barely could get by and just have enough to eat. And so, what I think is really important about that is Jesus is hitting on one of the deepest, most clearly felt needs that people had, who were listening to him. And what I hear from that is Jesus saying, bring God, the things that you care the most about. The things that you need, that you feel most deeply ask him for that.

And just like a father loves to give good gifts to his children, your father in heaven wants to hear what you need and wants to give you what you need.

Steve Brooks: So, and we’re not just talking about first century Judea. There are. Millions and millions who are starving today. And again, I draw our attention back to the little pronoun that’s easily overlooked.

Give us today our daily bread. Yeah. We have brothers and sisters all over the world. People who are loved and made in the image of God who are going to bed hungry. Yeah. And we don’t just pray for ourselves. We pray for them as well. Yeah.

Wyatt Martin: So that’s the physical need. He then goes on to say, prayer is about asking for your spiritual needs as well. So, the next verse, forgive us our debts. As we also have forgiven our debtors. I think that that one probably is spiritualized. Mostly. I don’t think Jesus is literally saying, you know God, please forgive my credit card debt. Although that’s a perfectly appropriate prayer to pray about. But when he’s talking about debts, I think he’s talking about sin. I mean, this is forgive me, Lord, for the things that I’ve done wrong, just as I will forgive people who have wronged me.

Steve Brooks: It may be beating a dead horse here, Wyatt, there’s the hour again. Mm-hmm. You know, we just, as individualistic Westerners, we just overlook the importance of other people in God’s eyes. And basically, this is the only thing Jesus repeats. We didn’t read on past these verses, but verse 14, he repeats it again, for if you forgive other people, when they sin against you, your heavenly father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, their sins, your father will not forgive your sins.

Like God’s, in a way saying, don’t come to me and expect me to meet you on a friendly basis, if you are walking around with bitterness and unforgiveness in your heart towards other people. So, God cares deeply about our relationships. He’s quick to forgive, but he expects us to extend that mercy to others.

Wyatt Martin: Yeah, that’s really interesting. I mean, I, as we’re thinking about what prayer is, it seems like one of the things Jesus is pointing to here is that prayer is one of the ways that God works in our life to help us to live the way that he has called us to live. That as we come to God and we remember together, okay, Yeah, I have, I have sinned. I have fallen short God; I need your forgiveness. Jesus is tying that directly to how you’re gonna live when you stop praying. That when, when people come to you and they wrong you, that you are going to forgive them. And I think there’s something really meaningful about the fact that your prayer life, your time with God, is actually the driver of your sanctification, of your behavior of actually living as a follower of Jesus.

Steve Brooks: This is just so healthy. Because honestly, this is the part of the prayer we wanna skip right past, but healthy people are quick to admit faults. To seek forgiveness. To seek grace and new life. And Jesus teaches us to make that a part of our everyday routine. And it comes from God himself.

Wyatt Martin: Yeah. And then the last verse, verse 13, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. What do you see in that from Jesus’ example?

Steve Brooks: So many things, but that word deliver just jumps out at me, right? I mean, what day do we not wake up and just need deliverance from something? We are needy creatures, whether it was a fight we had with our spouse the night before, or we’re having a hard time at work, or we’re not getting along with the neighbor, or there was a surprise bill. Whatever it is, we are constantly in need of God’s deliverance.

Wyatt Martin: Yeah. I mean, I think prayer is an expression of our dependence on God; of our need for him. So, to come and just say, God, I need you to deliver me from temptation I’m I am weak on my own. Without you, there’s no way that I’m gonna be able to be faithful. Please help me. And that looks different for different people in different stages of life. We all struggle with different things, but I think it’s a, it’s a reminder of the fact that we need the power of God. I mean the power of the spirit in order to live as followers of Jesus, not our own efforts. And so, prayer is, is one of the ways that we orient ourselves to that truth.

The, the other thing, I mean, deliver us from the evil one. I think this is such a huge part of the Lord’s prayer that we need today in the west, more than ever. I mean, we, our, our society that we live in our culture is so materialistic actually not the right word. I don’t mean like obsessed with getting stuff. I just mean we are focused on the material world rationalistic, right? Yeah. What, yeah. The only things that exist are what you can see measure. Explain. Yep. Yep. And even as Christians who don’t believe that, living in a world that is so tilted that way, it kind of soaks in if you’re not careful. And one of the things that prayer is here is, it is a reminder to you of the spiritual reality of the universe, of being on the universe. That, that, there is more to existence than what you can see, touch and smell that that God is there. That there’s a spiritual battle going on. I mean, this delivers from the evil one, there’s a reality to spiritual evil, to spiritual forces of good. And, and there’s a battle for your own soul going on. For the souls of others around you. I mean, so there’s this way that prayer serves to open your eyes to that reality that I think is so important.

Steve Brooks: I watched the news last night and was reminded; yeah, we live in an evil world and, you know, as, as followers of Christ, we really, really know and believe in the bottom of our hearts, God is the only one who can ultimately deliver us from that evil.

Wyatt Martin: Yeah. So, yeah. So, this is some of what we see about prayer from Jesus. And we’re gonna kind of go into some more detail of these different things, but prayer is a conversation. It’s, it’s communicating with God. It’s recognizing who God is. It’s aligning yourself with God’s will for your life and for your heart, for your mind.

It’s asking that God work in your life. Your will on earth, as it is in heaven. You know, it’s asking God for what you need most deeply. It’s asking for forgiveness for your sins. And, and it’s empowering you to live as a follower of Jesus. It’s recognizing the spiritual reality of your life, and all these things.

And so, we’re gonna have a lot of fun in these next episodes kind of unpacking different aspects of that. But this is I think a decent starting point.

Steve Brooks: Yeah, really, really good stuff. Three short sentences say so much.

Wyatt Martin: Yeah. Yeah. Maybe I’ll just close. We can pray the Lord’s prayer one more time together.

So, our father in heaven hall would be your name. Your kingdom come your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us, not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Narrator: Again, special thanks to our hosts for this series, Wyatt Martin and Steve Brooks from Alderwood Community Church. Don’t forget to follow their podcast, Native Exiles, in any podcast app, or go to, where they look at living as everyday followers of Christ in the world today. If you are looking for a church to call home, check out Alderwood at

Thank you for downloading, Why Pray?, a Purposely Equipped series. Let’s keep growing in our faith together. Purposely Equipped is part of Purposely, a podcast network with practical podcasts to help you find and live in God’s purpose for your life. Find more podcasts and faith resources at

Related Posts