Prayer is essential to the Christian life. One cannot be a disciple of Christ and at the same time neglect prayer in his life. Prayer is important for us as children of God. It is as valuable as the air we breathe.
Yet I have to confess that prayer is one of the often neglected disciplines in my life. Not that I don't say or utter prayers to God. I could argue that I mumble some short and simple prayers every day and every week by just looking at our church bulletin and my Facebook friends' timeline. In fact, I have prayed for several people who are having medical issues these past few days.
The problem is that my prayers are haphazard, heartless, i.e., not from the heart, as the prophet Hosea decries in Hosea 7:14a. Most of the time my prayers are perfunctory and not motivated by the tenderness of the heavenly Father and by the sweetness of the grace of God in Christ.
I know that God is eager to listen to us when we come to Him in true faith and when we pray from the heart that which God has commanded us to ask for. Every time we approach God with boldness in the name of Christ, He is pleased to incline His ears to us.
When we acknowledge our need and misery, hiding nothing from Him and humbling ourselves in His majestic presence, God is delighted.
The Lord will surely be pleased to answer our prayers when we rest on the solid truth that even though we do not deserve it, He will surely listen to our prayer because of Christ, His Son and our Lord, as He promised us in His Word (cf. Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 117).
I know these things are true but usually my prayers are contrary to these principles. No matter how flowery and pious my words are if they were uttered in careless and thoughtless ways, the things that I mumble are words that God does not really bother to hear. So I repent. I ask God to forgive my heartless prayers.
Ultimately prayer is not just words that we say but also the attitude we have toward the God to whom we pray.
Prayer also includes our disposition toward the Lord who has established His gracious covenant with us in and through His Son.
He continually strengthens that covenant with us by His Spirit by means of feeding us with His Word and the holy sacraments.
When we forget that prayer is not just words that we say to but also attitude of the heart toward the One who created and redeemed us, it could become careless and thoughtless.
However, when we come to Him in reverence and utter dependence, prayer can become a meaningful communion with our heavenly Father who delights in blessing us His children.