When discussing the subject of prayer, the most fundamental question should be, what exactly is prayer? Renowned Bible commentator Matthew Henry rightly explains, “The scripture describes prayer to be our drawing near to God, lifting up our souls to him, pouring out our hearts before him.” Hebrews 10:22 calls us to draw near to God with a sincere heart, in Psalm 25:1 David speaks of lifting up his soul to God and in Psalms 62:8 the people of God are encouraged to pour out their hearts before God.
Defining prayer is both very simple and more complicated at the same time. John MacArthur defines the essence of prayer as “simply talking to God as you would to a beloved friend–without pretense or flippancy.” Philip Ryken also defines prayer as “talking with our heavenly father.” J. C. Ryle gives a similar definition, as he responds to an objection of prayer being something too hard for the common man, “Prayer is the simplest act in all religion. It is simply speaking to God. It needs neither learning nor wisdom nor book knowledge to begin it.”
While the narrow definition of prayer is rightly to be understood as ‘speaking with God’, further clarification and distinction is often needed. Matthew Henry writes about the sometimes misleading narrow definition of the word ‘prayer’ in the English language, and how though this word properly communicates the petition aspect of prayer, but it does not carry with it the same weight of understanding prayer as also including humble adoration of God and thanksgiving to Him.
For the Christian, it is crucial to understand the true nature of prayer being communion with God, worshipping Him in reverent submission and dependence.
For the Christian, it is crucial to understand the true nature of prayer being communion with God, worshipping Him in reverent submission and dependence. Speaking to God and laying our requests before Him, knowing that He cares and provides for all our needs, whether they are the ones we think are important or not. In prayer we bring to God our worship, desires, thoughts and requests (Phil 4:6).
 Matthew Henry, A Method for Prayer (Fearn: Christian Focus, 1994), 12.
 John MacArthur, Alone with God (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1995), 7.
 Philip Graham Ryken, The Prayer of Our Lord (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2002), 12.
 J. C. Ryle, A Call to Prayer (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1979), 49.
 Matthew Henry, A Method for Prayer (Fearn: Christian Focus, 1994), 11.