Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out
of the heart or soul to God, through Christ,
in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus’s redemptive work does more than bring us to God; it also creates a pattern of communion with God, and therefore a pattern for prayer. We see this in Ephesians 2:18: “For through [Jesus] we both [Jew and Gentile] have access in one Spirit to the Father.”
John Bunyan built his definition of prayer on this structure: “Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit.”
We pray to God the Father, as Jesus himself taught us to pray (Matthew 6:9), as he regularly modeled in his own prayer life (Matthew 11:25; 26:39; John 17:1), and as the apostles prayed (Ephesians 1:16–17).
Because our access to the Father is through the atoning death and continuing advocacy of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:34), we approach the Father in Jesus’s name (John 14:13; 15:16; 16:23–24, 26). We come “with confidence” because we’re “in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:11–12). Jesus, the Son of God by nature, makes us sons of God through adoption — and children have access to their parents. It’s like that for us because of the work of Jesus Christ.
And, as Bunyan says, we pray in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness, interceding for us (Romans 8:26). So, we have double help in our prayers. Both God the Son and God the Spirit speak to God the Father on our behalf.
This pattern encourages us in our prayers, praying to the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Spirit. Jesus’s passion, pleasure, and purpose is to bring us into the presence of the Father — and the Holy Spirit shares this passion.
From God, Through God, To God
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis memorably expressed the wonder of prayer to God:
An ordinary simple Christian kneels down to say his prayers. He is trying to get into touch with God. But if he is a Christian he knows that what is prompting him to pray is also God: God, so to speak, inside him. But he also knows that all his real knowledge of God comes through Christ, the Man who was God — that Christ is standing beside him, helping him to pray, praying for him.
You see what is happening. God is the thing to which he is praying — the goal he is trying to reach. God is also the thing inside him which is pushing him on — the motive power. God is also the road or bridge along which he is being pushed to that goal.
The whole threefold life of the three-personal Being is actually going on in that ordinary little bedroom where an ordinary man is saying his prayers. The man is being caught up into the higher kinds of life . . . he is being pulled into God, by God, while still remaining himself.
There is major help and encouragement here for us, as we learn to pray, as we come alive to the massive privilege of access to God our Father, as we marvel that the Son and the Spirit intercede for us. And so we pray with a sense of wonder and a settled confidence.
We pray with joy and purpose.