Prayer, like most spiritual practices, is subject to a spectrum of opinion and conviction as to how it is best practiced.
Prayer in a word, means different things to different people. Typically we associate prayer with some form of communication and personal encounter with God. The term prayer has been applied to everything from experiencing a silent awareness of His presence to a cacophonous expression of verbal petition.
There is tension therefore, particularly within Christian ranks, between the silent end of the spectrum in what might be termed communion, versus the verbal petition end of the spectrum which could be termed intercession. Jesus validated this wide spectrum of prayer Himself, by demonstrating a prayer life that embodied both communion with His Father in silence as well intercession with strong crying and tears for the needs of others.
Let me share a New Testament illustration of each. First we have the picture of Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus. Her simple enjoyment of His presence is a beautiful illustration of contemplative communion. She chose His presence over performance, unlike her sister Martha, and Jesus rewarded her by affirming that she had chosen the “better” part. (Luke 10:42) To all those like Mary who are naturally inclined to the communion side of the spectrum of prayer this is a very nurturing and encouraging story.