What is Prayer?
"Prayer," as Richard Foster writes in Prayer, "is always initiated by God." God is the Beginning and End of all things good…including our interactions with Him. All contact with God finds its origin in God Himself; our communion with Him derives from our responses to Him—to something He's done, to Who He is, to how He's reached out to us, or to what we want Him to do for us or someone we love. God created us so He could enjoy relating to us. Even though I don't believe God forces Himself upon us, I believe He's placed in all of us a hunger to know Him, where we came from, why we're here, and where we're going. All of us, to a greater or lesser degree, thirst for meaning and purpose in life. We want to be wanted, and we want, too, to be part of something bigger than just our own circles of life. Prayer is, as I've experienced, one of the ways in which God quickens our souls to that for which we hunger, thirst, and long the most. It's also a prime medium through which He reveals Himself as not only the supplier of that which meets our needs, but also the cause of those needs.
But what of God's needs? Does He have any? I think He does, but I'm not entirely certain of this. Throughout the Scriptures, God uses the image of a banquet to describe the kind of relationship He wishes to have with us. I've always wondered why God wishes to be with us so much. Could it be He "hungers" for relationship with us just as much as we do with Him? Again, I don't know; but in my mind's eye I can imagine very much God sitting at a table and enjoying the food, the conversation, and the time with us just as much as we do. Life, and I mean life in all its fullness, has everything to do with how God reaches out to us and how we in turn respond to Him. Intimacy takes time, and it involves great risk on both sides of the equation (God's and ours). Does God risk rejection with us? I believe He does. All my life, I've been taught God is all knowing. I've been taught, too, He's intimately relational. How does one reconcile the "all knowing" aspects of God's Personality with the uncertainties and emotional ups and downs characteristic of genuine relationship building? If God always knows exactly what’s going to happen, how does such a venue differ from the one where I sit in front of the TV and watch the same episode of The Andy Griffith Show over and over and over again?
In my innermost thoughts, I picture God looking at us (like a new father or mother might) and wondering if today will be the day we say our first word, or take our first step, or do any one of a billion other things. I think God delights in waiting to see what happens next. Prayer, as I've alluded to above, is the prime medium through which we relate to God and God to us. While it's a means to an end (the END being finding and discovering God), prayer is also, as Thomas Merton wrote in Contemplative Prayer, "an end unto itself." More than just finding God, it's a resting in He whom we've found (or, more accurately, in He who found us!). It's in this searching and being searched, finding and being found, pursuing and being pursued that our deepest needs (and, I think, God's needs, too) are met. Could it be that God, out of the shear possibility of intimacy with us, has chosen to "lay aside" some of His attributes so He might immerse Himself in the authentic risks of pursuing that which He wants, but doesn't yet have? And may never have? He's done it before. Perhaps God's a lot more comfortable with paradox, risk, and uncertainty than we are. I'm very interested in any thoughts you might have on this whole subject. Feel free to drop me a line some time.
IKIGAI Weekly Blog Schedule (per The Training Trinity):
Mondays: Meditative Prayer
Wednesdays: Holistic Discipline
Fridays: Martial Arts Practice