Question: What is prayer?

Dwight L. Moody was a nineteenth century evangelist, well known in America and across the seas in Scotland and England. He posed the question to children in Edinburgh, Scotland, “What is prayer?”  Not thinking he would get an answer, many little hands shot up and one boy clearly spoke with confidence, “Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God for things agreeable to His will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins and thankful acknowledgment of His mercies.”  Moody responded, “Thank God, my boy, that you were born in Scotland!”1 In the 1800s, the parents of Scotland still believed and ensured their children understood the importance of catechisms. 
If that is the answer of a child, then we should not simplify the answer, because it is an excellent answer.  Let us restate that prayer is talking with God about His will being accomplished in His work on earth as it is in heaven.  Prayer is part of the armament of God in the spiritual warfare that rages around us.  Paul writes,
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints–(Eph 6:17-18 NKJ)
Prayer is talking with God as many say, but it is far more important than talking to a buddy next door.  Prayer is talking to the God of the universe about the issues at hand.  Paul describes in Ephesians 6 both prayer and supplication.  There is great praise and thankfulness on the heart of every believer.  Praise at God’s marvelous character and thankfulness for how God works all the details of life for good for the accomplishment of His sovereign will in life.
            Prayer is not something to be feared, but something to fear if it is not done.  God desires we pray to Him.  He is good and merciful in all His ways to those who seek Him and humbly approach Him. Prayer reveals our dependency upon Him.  God is not a watering trough that we must fill, but a refreshing mountain spring that provides revitalizing energy to press forward through the battles of life. You don’t need to carry buckets of water to Him to provide for you.  You can go to Him and be refreshed, because you see in Him the solutions to life.
            Sometimes you will have to wait on God for answers. As you  drink from His mountain stream and wait on Him, He will work.  Isaiah writes, “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, nor has the eye seen any God besides You, Who acts for the one who waits for Him.”  (Is. 64:4)  This is perfect for us to know that as we wait upon God, He is at work for us.  In fact, God delights in the prayers of those who walk after Him.  Solomon writes in Proverbs, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is His delight.” (Pro. 15:8)  It is fantastic that God would delight in prayers of those who seek after His face and seek to walk humbly in obedience to His will. Hence, prayer is like battle-field communication coverage, rather than a Sam’s Club line for comfort food.  Here are four simple things to remember about prayer using the acrostic CAST. CAST is an analogy that helps us remember, we are part of God’s cast on earth representing His grace to the world.
            Each of the letters of CAST represents a part of prayer.  The first letter “C” of CAST stands for Confession.  Prayer is approaching God in praise for how great He is.  Yet, it is important to consider how important a humble, pure heart is.  The Psalmist writes, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” (Ps. 66:18) If I am walking independently of God, I need to confess that sin to God using the principle from 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) If we acknowledge our sins to God, He will, every time, forgive us and cleanse us from sins we are not yet aware are sin.  That is tremendously awesome.  It is not a license to sin, but a way to boldly approach the throne of grace.
            The second letter “A” of CAST stands for Adoration.  God is worthy of all honor and praise.  He is the One who spoke a word and the universe came into existence.  He is the one who set the stars in the sky and keeps every day with 24 hours.  He is the faithful One that provides all that we need to accomplish His will.  He is the One who provided redemption (salvation) to all who trust in the Lord Jesus.  David writes,
I will praise You, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works.2 I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High. (Ps. 9:1-2 NKJ)
The great Hymn “The Love of God is Greater Far” describes just one aspect of God’s great character,  His love,
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.2
Fill your prayer with praise and you will be drawn to the heart of God.
            The third letter “S” of CAST stands for Supplication.  That is a long word that merely means “request.”  This is the most common aspect of prayer as people resort to prayer for making requests to God.  Supplication is the plea, the request or the entreaty on behalf of someone to God or for something from God.  Paul writes, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”  (Phil. 4:6) This shows our dependency upon God. It shows that we trust God to work, while we wait for His will to be done.
            The fourth letter “T” of CAST stands for thanksgiving.  This is the aspect of prayer that shows we trust God.  It shows that we will accept God’s answer, whether the request is given or denied, or the answer is delayed.  Thanksgiving is one of the most basic attitudes God desires for us.  It is what the unbeliever lacks and causes them to slide in the Downward Spiral (Rom. 1:21).  Paul says it best for us, “…in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thes. 5:18)
            When you pray, try to remember these four aspects of prayer in CAST.  They will help you recall how great God is and your wonderful privilege of communicating with the One who has all the answers and resources needed to succeed in accomplishing His will.
            Prayer is indeed talking to the God of the universe and it is an awesome privilege that we can grow in relationship with Him.  He is One to be approached boldly, if you humbly desire and are pursuing His righteousness.  “If God is for us, who can be against us?”  (Rom. 8:31).  Pray often, before meals, going to bed, waking up in the morning, in fact, all the time (1 Thes. 5:17).
1This account is told in the anonymously written The Kneeling Confession(Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1945), 51 from The Pleasures of God, John Piper, (Multnomah, 2000) p. 203.

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