Enlightenment philosopher Søren Kierkegaard once wrote, “The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” I remember taking a class on prayer while in leadership training at a former church of mine. The teacher was Bill Thrasher of Moody Bible college, and he said basically the same thing Kierkegaard; prayer is not about us getting what we want, but about becoming who we are.
I can remember the radicalness of this concept at the time. Here I was a young twenty-something struggling with what the point of prayer was and the answer was as simple sliced bread. If the goal of our life (the Christian life) and everything in it is focused toward one thing, making us more like Christ, then prayer would also serve that same purpose. Prayer is and is not about us. It is not about us getting what we want when we want it. It is not about us feeling better or more comfortable with our life. Prayer is about us in that it is about making us more like Christ. Prayer is about conforming our will to God’s. It is about us gaining and submitting to the perspective of the Sovereign God over our situation. It is about understanding that our life is not about us, it is about him.
Prayer serves us in refocusing our thoughts and attention on what God is doing in and through us and others. Prayer is a refresher course in attitude and perspective. It is a vehicle of change. It is the driving force behind the shift of our identity in ourselves, our needs, our wants, our life, to trusting and understanding that our identity is in God, his plan, his goodness, and his glory.