I don’t think I will ever really understand prayer, and my desire for understanding diminishes when I have to pray in the presence of confusion, suffering, and uncertainty.
I’m going through a time like that right now, and just this morning I found insight and comfort from a sentence in Ridchard Rohr’s e-letter….
Basically prayer is an exercise in divine participation—you opting in and God always there!
Fresh Wind from the Holy Spirit blew through me when I read those words, and I experienced yet another “spring cleaning of the soul.”
In the larger writing Rohr simply asks, “Who is doing the praying?” And he points out that it is God, not us. We are only invited to enter into what God is already doing, and prayer is the means by which we do that.
I believe this is true to biblical teaching (e.g. Romans 8:26), and I have often used this perspective to teach that our words (in prayer) are always a response to God’s prior Word (revelation). But it took Richard Rohr’s writing to re-awaken this reality in me–and to do it at just the time I needed to be reminded of this.
When I enter into “God’s praying,” I can praise or lament, because God looks at life sometimes through the emotion of celebration and sometimes through the pain of deep sorrow. My prayers do not always have to be “positive” because what I am looking at is not positive. Through the Spirit, I am enabled and allowed to see life the way God sees it.
I am free to say, “I don’t understand,” because I am speaking to the One and Only One who does. I do not have to pray with any more wisdom or strength than I actually have, because I am not trying to make things happen in my power.
And…when positive answers come, I am not tempted to nominate my prayer as the one that “did it,” because I know God is the One who accomplished it.
I hope this is making sense to you. I hope I am putting into words what I have recently re-experienced about prayer. I am free to pray, because my prayers are only the doorways for entering into the praying God is already doing!
This throws open the gates to what my mentor in prayer (Dr. Thomas Carruth) often called: “total prayer for total living.” In one moment I can exclaim, “Hallelujah!.” In another moment I can cry out, “Please, No!” I do this in faith, believing that as God looks at the same life experience (way before I notice it), these are His words as well.