A recent survey on prayer says a Christian prays 8 minutes a day, supposedly. A pastor prays only 4 minutes longer.

Religion has defined prayer as people using words, sometimes way too many. Religion calls prayer that time on Sunday when one voice uses a lot of words and says a lot of things on behalf of everyone present without knowing whether these words actually reflect what each individual feels. Prayer happens, by tradition, after someone says, “Let us pray” (code for one person speaking) and everyone closes their eyes and bows their head, maybe even getting down on their knees.

Now the charismatic types might feel smug at this point. Their prayer time as a group has everyone speaking at the same time, many of them in what is called “tongues”. (Never mind that Paul writes, inspired by God, (1 Corinthians 14:27-28 God’s Word) “If people speak in other languages, only two or three at the most should speak. They should do it one at a time, and someone must interpret what each person says. But if an interpreter isn’t present, those people should remain silent in church.”)

Instead, in both situations, listen to Jesus who said, “When you pray, don’t ramble like heathens who think they’ll be heard if they talk a lot” (Matthew 6:7-8 God’s Word).

However, a conscious effort at communicating with God reaps its benefits. Properly done it humbles the one who prays. When someone gets puffed up by the sound of their own voice you know they focus on themselves rather than Almighty God.

Since the Book of Psalms consists mostly of prayers, consider the model there. A psalm starts angry or confused or afraid. It ends with either trust or praise, or both. In other words, the prayer starts focussed on the one speaking, but humbled by God’s presence this turns to a change of heart with God in authority.

But prayer may also search for God’s will, or the humility and strength to submit to God’s will. Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane shows one example of this. Contrary to that, I’ve seen Christian religious bureaucracy make life-changing decisions with no conscious prayer or fasting. What a contrast between human religious power and Jesus the Judge of the universe.

There are also times when our state of soul goes beyond words. “At the same time the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we don’t know how to pray for what we need. But the Spirit intercedes along with our groans that cannot be expressed in words. The one who searches our hearts knows what the Spirit has in mind. The Spirit intercedes for God’s people the way God wants him to” (Romans 8:26-27 God’s Word).

So, since prayer involves more than words, obey God, through Paul, “Never stop praying. Whatever happens, give thanks, because it is God’s will in Christ Jesus that you do this” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 God’s Word).

Is prayer, then, living life keeping in touch with God every step of the way? I think so. And that takes more than 8 minutes a day.