There are many definitions of prayer. Evelyn Underhill calls it a loving intercourse with God. Myriad descriptions refer to it as being a quenching of a thirst. We, people, somehow and for some reason yearn to connect with God and prayer is one way that satisfies this yearning.
All this is well and good. And very poetic. But I take a much more practical and concrete approach to prayer. Here is my definition:
Prayer is the act of taking of an idea and bringing it into reality through God.
All of us who pray have a general, if fuzzy, understanding of how prayer works. We may even have strong feelings about the form it should take — it should involve knees and/or a bowed head. We should stand. A cross should be involved. Or beads.
Underneath all the rules and regulations that we impose on ourselves, though, we sense a reality in what we are doing. It’s a shimmering reality — we can’t quite touch it or know it absolutely. But we do understand it’s there.
From my point of view, people do, indeed, understand prayer. Generally. I just don’t think most people have the self-confidence to be effective with it. Or bold enough to use it.
If people are anything, they are shy about asking God for what they want.