Prayer: the Root of the Spiritual Life

By Stacy Mitch 

Stacy Mitch is the author of the successful Courageous Women bible study series.

Recently, I came across one of those studies that chronicles what Americans believe about God. One statistic stood out in particular. It said that nearly three-quarters of Americans pray at least once a week. My reactions to that little fact were mixed.  

On the one hand, I thought, it’s great that so many people are talking to God. But on the other hand, what kind of conversation can they be having if they’re only talking once a week?  

Don’t get me wrong. Some prayer is definitely better than no prayer. Yet, if I told you that I only spoke with my husband once a week, what would you think about our marriage? I’m guessing you would have your doubts about the strength and closeness of our relationship. And you would be perfectly right to have those doubts. No marriage could ever survive, let alone thrive, if a husband and wife only had brief chats once a week. Similarly, no relationship with God can sustain us or transform us if we only go to Him once every seven days.  

Prayer is the means by which we build a relationship with God. Sure, He knows what we’re thinking without us having to tell Him. But He wants us to tell Him nonetheless. He wants us to turn to Him not just once a week, or even once a day, but repeatedly throughout the day. That’s why the Bible admonishes us to “pray constantly,” and to “continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Col 4:2).  

God doesn’t want us to pray like that because He needs it. He wants it because we need it. We need to go to Him constantly, repeatedly, again and again so that we can learn to hear His voice speaking to us and see His hand guiding us. We need to go to Him so that we can both be transformed by Him and receive the grace we need to live the lives He calls us to lead. “Jesus, I want to see your face,” is the prayer of the heart longing for its Savior.  

Without prayer, courageous generosity is just a pipe dream, a pleasant but unrealistic thought. If we’re not praying as we ought, it might be because we don’t have a clear understanding of the nature of prayer. Humility is the virtue whereby we have an accurate self-knowledge or “self-image.” Humility informs us that apart from Jesus we are nothing and can do nothing of value. It instructs us that in Him we are precious daughters of the King of heaven who have all we need and are empowered to do His work on earth. All that is good in us comes from His divine goodness and all our failings can be overcome through His mighty grace.  

But prayer requires more than humility. It also requires faith. Faith, according to Hebrews 11:1, is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith is the virtue that enables us to believe the truth of God even though we cannot physically see Him. We accept this truth based on the testimony and trustworthiness of God Himself. St. Peter tells it this way in 1 Peter 1:8–9, “Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls.” 

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