Grace of Prayer
Some years back, my prayer life shifted. Times of silence and stillness re-ordered my soul’s journey with God. I can’t claim much expertise. But even as a stumbling pilgrim can still progress in the right direction, so prayer has become a compass for me. Allow me to explain.
Over the years, I absorbed an understanding about prayer that was off kilter. I approached prayer as something that I do for God. I give Him praise. I give Him thanks. I solicit His help for my life. I effect change in my world by pointing God towards the glaring needs. I stand in the gap for others by intercessory petitions. You note that I am the subject in each of those sentences. That’s expected when talking about my prayer life. What is unexpected is this. I began to see myself as the initiator in prayer. I assumed first voice in the matter of prayer. I also assumed responsibility for the outcomes of prayer. If something good was going to happen - I had to pray. I thought I bore the weight of prayer from the first voice to the final outcome. Frankly, that became a burden I could not carry - until there was a shift in my soul.
Don’t misunderstand. I still believe that prayer is central. I still hope in the power of prayer to effect change in me and around me. But there has been a shift. I no longer see myself as the prime agent in this mystery of prayer. Instead of all things originating with me, I have come to understand that God is the initiator of prayer. He has the first Voice. Instead of seeing prayer solely as something I bring to God, I have begun to see prayer as something I receive from God. Prayer is God’s invitation to me; and then, my obedience to His grace. Grace takes precedence over performance.
If grace does not come first, my prayers become hollow. I become hollow. If I take the prime place in prayer, as if it all depended upon me, I take too much upon myself and implode. My prayers become skinny and shallow. My finite form and limited grasp will lead to a prayerful life that is hemmed in my own vision. I may expend all I have in prayer but eventually I become dry. Unless I take time to receive from God, I will empty my own soul. I can position myself before God with a silent, stilled heart, to receive His mercy, comfort, instruction, hope, insight, peace and love. I am then in a place where I can give back to God and my world the very things He has first offered me. Prayer is not either/or - give or receive. Of course it is both! But it took me years to learn that in praying and living - grace comes first. Now prayer is not the size of my own soul, mind or expectations. My prayer life becomes the size of God.