It is often our last resort, the final step in a hopeless situation. We refer to it with such phrases as “he doesn’t have a prayer,” or “there is nothing left to do but pray.” But it is perhaps the most important and distinguishing characteristic of our humanity.
No other creature prays. We share many attributes with the animal kingdom, including instincts for hunger, reproduction and survival. All animals provide care and nurture for their young. Some construct elaborate shelters whether nests, caves, holes or houses. Many have complex social systems. But no other creature has the capacity to communicate with the Creator and to pray. Only man is endowed with that gift.
I have never met or heard of anyone who complained that they prayed too much. But I have known many, including myself, who wish they had prayed more. In our most desperate circumstances and in our finest moments, we cry out to God in prayer. The greatest gift we can bestow upon another human being is to pray earnestly for them.
How can my prayer alter or change the circumstances or the outcome of events on earth? It seems more reasonable to understand prayer as a psychological exercise merely benefiting the one who prays. But Scripture affirms that there is more at work when we pray than we imagine.
Jesus prayed. In fact, He rose early in the morning before sunrise and sought solitary places where He could spend time alone in prayer. He taught us to pray, not as a public display to impress others, but in secret where “your father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:6). He taught us to pray constantly with discipline and determination. His prayer life was so powerful that his disciples asked him to teach them to pray.