All right, she says, as she rubs her hands together, let’s get started. Most people intuitively understand the mechanics of prayer — not all of it, to be sure, but people seem to “get” what prayer is about.
However, unlike the sort of general way people approach prayer, prayer is, surprisingly, a very exact activity.
So let us begin at the beginning, with the intention of a prayer. It’s amazing how many prayers that I read, which are written by the average man-off-the-street trying to be impressive, that are, in the end, absolutely meaningless. These prayers may sound good, all the words heading off toward some fanciful ideal, but the prayers seems to forget completely that our prayers are petitions for something we want to bring into reality. Something exact.
We are, as a species, overwhelmingly too shy to ask God for something directly and succinctly. Dear God, please guide me to my next job. Dear God, please heal my inability to talk with my father honestly. This kind of petitioning appears to be too bold a statement to be made to God directly. Instead, we tend to distance ourselves from the truth of our heart’s desires with embellished and curlicued words that reduce the prayer into something close to gibberish.
So, this is the first step in conceiving a prayer: we need to tell the absolute truth.
And for those willing to give this a try, it’s not as easy as it sounds.
First, we have to know the truth of what we want. Concerning our relationship with our father, why do we now want an open and honest relationship with our father after a lifetime of evasion and deception? We may think it is because we have matured enough to face the problem head-on. Or perhaps so much time has passed that the pain from the original rift has subsided, and we mistake our emotional numbness for strength and ability to endure an encounter.
So, it’s best to understand the why of the truth. Perhaps we need to write about it, write about it all until we can write about it no longer. Or perhaps we need to talk with someone else about it all. Or, oddly enough, perhaps we need to pray about the situation.
Starting with, Dear God, please show me what I honestly want from my father and how to achieve this, might be a good place to start.
Understanding how to come to our truth can be explained another way: we need to align ourselves in our prayer intention. We need to tell the truth in our heads (our thoughts), our hearts (our feelings), and our hands (our actions).
It is easily grasped how we can have conflict between what we think we want and how we feel about getting it. We may think it’s a great idea to have a heart-to-heart clearing conversation with our father; in fact, it is in our thoughts that the appeal of this encounter may lie.
But when we are on our own, passively and in silence, the feelings of dread and resistance at the thought of this encounter may arise.
No prayer is going to work if we are not telling the absolute truth. What we will be communicating to God is our conflict. But, don’t forget, we can use God to address this same conflict. We can ask God to give us the insight to understand and resolve the conflict.
Then, of course, we need to teach ourselves how to be still in order to hear this insight. But that’s another topic on prayer altogether.
And, in the end, we need to take the action needed to bring the prayer into reality. If we are telling the truth, then we must be willing to take the steps necessary to make the reality happen. We would have to call our father and find the way, with God’s grace, to bring about the honest conversation that we have been praying for.
Thought, feelings, actions. We must be aligned in truth in order to present ourselves to God, humbly and with gratitude, honor, and awe.