Pray as you can, not as you can’t. —Abbot John Chapman (1865–1933), British Catholic priest and New Testament scholar.
PRAYER: (from the Lectionary)
“O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, AMEN.”
SCRIPTURES: (from the Lectionary)
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. (Matthew 11:28-30, The Message)
PRAYER FOCUS: Praying with Force.
Can you relate to Jesus’ words about being tired and worn out? How about the part about being burned out on religion? Has your daily life ever gotten so chaotic that you stumbled over your words in mid-prayer? Or perhaps you’ve been holding something so close to your heart, in secret, that you wonder, like, how can I bring this before the Lord?
Don’t kid yourself, Christian. None of our words are “good enough” anyway. Just because someone prays eloquently doesn’t necessarily mean God is impressed. Besides, what if the reason you’re struggling for the right words is because there are no right words? What if you have a thought, or a task, or a burden, that is coming from the very Heart of God that just can’t be expressed in mere human utterance?
Simply stated, prayer is not about what’s in our words, it’s about what’s in our hearts. More to the point, actually, prayer is about what’s in God’s heart. Our focus in prayer is to engage with the Living God and seek His will, His wisdom. We use words to the extent we have them, but we leave the supernatural part up to Him.
…The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)
Now this is really, really good news. The Holy Spirit will interpret our prayers on our behalf—however imperfect our words and thoughts. Our heart-felt messages will always get through.
C.S Lewis put it this way:
“What seem our worst prayers may really be, in God’s eyes, our best. Those, I mean, which are least supported by devotional feeling. For these may come from a deeper level than feeling. God sometimes seems to speak to us most intimately when he catches us, as it were, off our guard.”
The success or failure of a task or endeavor may hang on what you do and say, or what you do not do and say. But the force, the power, the effectiveness of your prayer does not. You don’t have to have everything “just right” in order to pray. Praying to Almighty God does not require any mastery at all. Sometimes “Help!” is all we need to pray.
Christian author Richard Foster writes:
The truth of the matter is, we all come to prayer with a tangled mass of motives—altruistic and selfish, merciful and hateful, loving and bitter…this side of eternity we will never unravel the good from the bad, the pure from the impure. But what I have come to see is that God is big enough to receive us with all our mixture. We do not have to be bright, or pure, or filled with faith, or anything. That is what grace means, and not only are we saved by grace, we live by it as well. And we pray by it. (Prayer, 1992, p. 8)
And so, dear Christian, don’t hold back from the loving embrace of your Father-God because you judge your words to be inadequate. It isn’t your words He is interested in–it’s you, beloved one. God wants to communicate with you. He knows you. He has time for you—all the time in the world. He adores you. He’s paying attention! And He has known all along what you’ve been waiting to say.
Therefore, just pray as you can, not as you wish you could. Offer up whatever understanding you have, and trust your Eternal Father, who has known you since before you were born, to know what you mean. Just pray.
That unspoken need, that burden you carry in your heart—the secret one you don’t have words for, the one you’ve been holding on to—go ahead and lift that up. Today. Right now. Pray as you can.
It’s Monday Morning. Your Heavenly Father is waiting to hear from you. Have a wonderful, miraculous week.
…Pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is a powerful force to be reckoned with. (James 5:16b, The Message)