“We must pray not first of all because it feels good or helps, but because God loves us and wants our attention.“ (Henri Nouwen quoted in The Blue Book by Jim Branch p.73)
I confess; I don’t pray just because God wants me to or wants my attention, but I pray because I desire to connect with God and sense His presence—to hear the whisper of love in my ear—to be reoriented in the right direction once again. I am very selfish in my desire for prayer, but I really don’t think God objects.
In my prayer time I experience union with Christ—an intimacy of mind and heart. I hear the gentle voice of conviction; I experience the comfort of affection—both God’s for me and mine for Him. There, He gives me courage as I see Him holding my day tenderly and with willful determination to form Christ in me.
I pray because I am desperate.
I pray because His love satisfies my heart.
I pray because there is evil and I need a battle buddy—empowerment—truth—an anchor in the wind and waves.
I pray because I love others and know that God in Christ is the answer for grief, sorrow, pain, loneliness, hatred, sin, misery, hunger and thirst.
It is in prayer with the Beloved that I find myself—I know God and therefore know who I am today—this moment—in my sin, my doubts, my fears, and my hopes, as well as in His dreams for me. There is a merger of hearts that I experience in prayer wherein I see Him and the promise of what is being shaped from the ashes, wounds and the nothings of my life.
The Holy Spirit also helps me when I pray. When I pray, I enter into the present work of Christ as intercessor. Prayer admits lack and places faith in someone bigger, but too often it is the last thing I do when I can’t fix things, when all my control is gone.
We cease to be god in prayer.
Sometimes I pray, like Nouwen said, because I know God wants me to and that He loves me. That, too, is part of the Christian life—simple discipline—even when we don’t feel like it.
But even in those times, as I turn my heart begrudgingly, sometimes sourly toward a God who seems to demand my attention and affection, it is the look of love that is returned to me that keeps me there. Rarely is it obligation, but hope and desperation that lures me to God.
Over the years, God has re-formed His image in my heart. Scripture, teaching, and a deeper understanding of grace lets me see an approachable, loving, grace-filled Father who—like in the story of the Prodigal Son—waits for me to travel toward Him so He can run and embrace me, cleanse me, clothe me, feed me, and give me gifts. He is generous that way.
Prayer is not simply an exercise of faith—not a few words strung together blindly, hopelessly—although I have prayed that way—and will again. It is not rote incantations and mindless mumbling. Though I’ve prayed like that, too.
Prayer is the poetry of desperate hearts—the melody of the Blues—the glory of the Hallelujah Chorus—the sound of drums—the Reggae—the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies—a bird’s song—the moaning of the hungry—the wailing of the grieving—the laughter of the hopeful. It is a waltz with God—sometimes spinning, sometimes staring into eyes—and sometimes it is like the dance of a child—our feet upon His as He leads us into what should be.
It is stillness.
It is violence.
It is agony.
It is joy unspeakable and full of glory.
It is pleasure and pain.
It is the brightest and the darkest place I’ve known.
It is a high priority for God, the present work of Christ, a point of active involvement for the Holy Spirit, and it is often the least attended to by us.
This is prayer to me.