Prayer is, quite simply and profoundly, being with God. It is speaking and listening in order to know and be known; it is hearing and being heard, as ways of holding and being held.
Prayer is more than asking and receiving; it is, as Roberta Bondi has said, “the sharing of a whole self and an entire life with God.”
One of the best descriptions of prayer I ever heard came from the Anglican priest Austin Farrer who said that prayer is bringing to God “the bundle of my choices and desires” and sorting them out there in God’s presence.
Prayer awakens our senses and softens our hearts so that we may experience the grace that is always shining and flowing all around us. It sharpens our vision, and teaches us to see God everywhere. We see God in the words of scripture and in the drama of worship—but not just there. We see God in the unfolding, everyday and apparently mundane details of our lives: God shows up in our friends and coworkers, in the stranger on the street, in the teller at the bank, and in the little girl playing with her dog. We see God in the lines of a poem, in a scene from a movie, in the flight and color of a cardinal, in new-fallen snow, in the crackling warmth of a banked fire. God appears in our dreams and even our disappointments, our passions and our problems, our hope and our fears. As we pray these things, as we bring them into God’s presence and consider them in the light of eternity, they break open to reveal God’s love and light streaming toward us from heaven.