What is Prayer?
Prayer is an important discipline for the believer. It’s part of our sanctification – the process of growing in our relationship with God. It’s also an important practice for the believer who is part of the Kingdom of God here on earth.
Wayne Grudem, in his systematic theology book, Bible Doctrine, defines prayer as “personal communication from us to God.” He goes on to give us 4 reasons that God wants us to pray:
1. Prayer expresses our trust in Him and is a means whereby our trust in Him can increase.
2. Prayer brings us into deeper fellowship with God.
3. Prayer allows us to be involved in activities that are eternally important.
4. Prayer allows us to give glory to God.
Use Your Imagination to Pray
With that in mind, I was intrigued when I read the title of an article on prayer in the online version of Christianity Today
titled “Why Women Hear God More Than Men Do”, by Tanya Luhrmann. I wanted to know what gave women the ability to hear God, or discern God’s will, or sense God’s desire more so than men, especially since pastors are, in most evangelical circles, men.
As I began to read, Luhrmann states in the opening line, “Women pray more than men do.” She cites the 2008 Pew U.S. Religious Landscape Survey (p. 44) and states that this confirms the findings of a similar survey in 1991 by Paloma and Gallup.
So, the thesis is proposed, and now we find out why. According to Luhrmann, “Women pray more because women are more comfortable with their imaginations, and in order to pray, you need to use your imagination.” While she does not suggest that God is a product of the imagination, shes does say,
…to know God intimately, you need to use your imagination, because the imagination is the means humans must use to know the immaterial.
Luhrmann saw people “who felt comfortable with a back-and-forth conversation with God had learned to have that conversation by using their imaginations.” This meant making two mugs of coffee, one for God and one for themselves, and having a conversation as if God were physically there. Or, taking lunch to the park and talking with God, who has his arms around you on the park bench. Or, better, standing in front of the closet asking God which shirt to wear for the day.
Do this. Do all of this as a technique to wait patiently for thoughts that “they felt might really be from God.”
And, why are men incapable of doing this? As Luhrmann states, “…men of our time are – generally speaking – less comfortable with their imaginations than women are.” Really?
Men “of our time” grew up playing “cowboys and indians”, we play video games, we tell hunting and fishing stories (which, more often than not, are embellished through imagination), and, quite frequently, we imagine ourselves at the plate with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th as we conclude a game of wiffle ball with our sons or brothers in the back yard.
Men have imagination. And, they use it.
Prayer Based on God’s Word
David Powlison, who has practiced Biblical counseling for more than 30 years and is also the editor of The Journal for Biblical Counseling, gives guidance in how to pray in his article, “Praying Beyond the Sick List.” He states,
…the majority of prayers in the Bible focus on other things [than the sick]. As shorthand, here are three emphases of biblical prayer: circumstantial prayers, wisdom prayers, and kingdom prayers. Praying for the sick is one form of the first.
1. Sometimes we ask God to change our circumstances—heal the sick, give us daily bread, protect us from suffering and evildoers, make our political leaders just, convert our friends and family, make our work and ministries prosper, provide us with a spouse, quiet this dangerous storm, send us rain, give us a child.
2. Sometimes we ask God to change us—deepen our faith, teach us to love each other, forgive our sins, make us wise where we tend to be foolish, help us know You better, give us understanding of Scripture, teach us how to encourage others.
3. Sometimes we ask God to change everything by revealing Himself more fully on the stage of real life, magnifying the degree to which His glory and rule are obvious—Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, be exalted above the heavens, let Your glory be over all of the earth, let Your glory fill the earth as the waters cover the sea, come Lord Jesus.
Powlison and Grudem do not account for, nor do they allow us to use our imaginations when it comes to prayer. Our guide is God’s Word, which is quite descriptive and specific in God’s character and works. We can pray with the full assurance that we have fellowship with God, trusting Him to work His will in our life and bring His kingdom to earth in His time. We can leave our imaginations outside the pages of scripture.
Luhrmann, on the other hand, is most definitely using her imagination regarding prayer. I would suggest she use it, instead, to try and remember where her Bible is.