What Is Prayer…and Am I Any Good At It?

Those who work with me have undoubtedly heard me say that prayer is one of my lowest spiritual gifts. I am 100% sure about this, but I regularly get surprised reactions from people when I tell them.

What Is A Spiritual Gift?

To me, a spiritual gift is something you do that brings you and other people closer to God without requiring much discipline from you. The amount of conscious effort you expend distinguishes between a gifting and a discipline.

In other words, you have the gift of helps if you just naturally notice opportunities to serve other people and regularly choose to do so. If you are constantly having to remind yourself to look out for ways to help people, or if you struggle inside every time you are faced with the choice of stopping and helping or going on your merry way, you’re using discipline instead of gifting.

Personal Example: Leadership vs Prayer

Leadership is one of my spiritual gifts. If we need to get from A to B, I will naturally start organizing people, casting the vision, and generally trying to get us there. I have to remind myself to NOT lead sometimes. That’s a gifting.

Prayer, on the other hand, is always a choice for me. I don’t pine away in my office for the next chance to pray. When I’m running meetings, I almost always start lining out our objectives before remembering to “open” in prayer. I have to CHOOSE to pray. That’s a discipline.

Do you know your spiritual giftings?

Do I Have to Pray?

The short answer is “yes.” But I’ll let Jesus do the talking on this one:

Matthew 6:6 (NIV) – But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Mark 11:24-25 (NIV) – Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Luke 5:16 (NIV) – But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Long story short: Jesus assumes we will pray, just as he often prayed. Just because I’m not “gifted” in prayer doesn’t get me off the hook. Some people revel in prayer and others (like me) choose to pray. We might pray differently, and we might pray for different amounts of time, but we are expected to pray.

Another way to look at this is to ask, “Why did Jesus pray?” If anyone in the history of humanity had a reason to NOT pray, it was Jesus. He’s basically praying to himself (nuances of the Trinity notwithstanding). But he prayed often.

A Different Definition of Prayer

While I have to choose to have a dialogue with God in the classic head-bowed kind of prayer, Wayne Cordeiro taught me a different definition of prayer that is useful for me:

Prayer is thinking about something God has asked you to do in the presence of the Lord.

I might not sit down and pray, but I routinely check in with God about things he has asked me to do. That’s a form of prayer, and I don’t have to make myself do that one.

Maybe I have a mustard seed’s worth of gifting in prayer after all.

Summary

  • A spiritual gift is something you do that brings you and other people closer to God without requiring much discipline from you (you naturally do it)
  • Prayer is thinking about something God has asked you to do in the presence of the Lord
  • Even if you’re not “gifted” in prayer, Jesus expects us to pray (just as he often prayed)

Discussion Starter

  • What are your strong spiritual gifts? What are your weak ones?
  • What spiritual disciplines do you choose, and how have they impacted you?
  • Describe your prayer life.
  • Does Wayne Cordeiro’s definition of prayer change how you would define your prayer life?