What is prayer?
First, it is asking God for what we need. Jesus taught us to ask for things (Luke 11:2). If God is really our father and we are really his children, it cannot be wrong to ask him for things.
Second, it is praising God for who he is. Jesus often turned to God for gifts, but at times he turned to him just for the sake of fellowship. Prayer is not merely asking God for things. We do not make our human friendships mere matters of convenience, approaching a friend only when we desire a favor from him and never going near him at any other time. No friendship could survive long under these mercenary terms. Nor can our friendship with God survive on this basis.
Third, prayer is thanking God for what he has done. Gratitude and praise often drove Jesus to his knees. His prayers were not marked by quarrels, protests, and aggravations.
Prayer must go beyond our own needs. Jesus taught us to pray for others. He prayed for little children, for his disciples, for Judas, for Peter, and even for his enemies at the cross.
We aren’t trying to coerce God. Instead we are trying to be open with him. We are not telling God what to do—we are telling him what we think we need. Prayer is not an effort to change God but it is loving communication with him. God has linked himself to prayer and works in response to it. And he is pleased when we pray.