Continuing on in Devotional Classics with Richard Foster Jean-Nicholas Grou (Please read last week's Monday Thoughts for the introduction to this author).
A Supernatural Act
"We know in general that prayer is a religious act, but when it comes to praying we easily forget that it is a supernatural act which is therefore beyond our own strength and can only be performed by the inspiration and help of grace. As St. Paul says: "Not that we are competent to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God (2 Cor. 3:5 NIV). Do we have the feeling of our own insufficiency in our mind and in our heart? Are we conscious of it when we place ourselves in God's presence? Do we begin our prayers with this secret confession? I am not saying that we must always vocally ask God's help, but such a request ought to be in our hearts and such an attitude should govern the whole course of our prayer. But if we are to look for everything from God, all our good thoughts and feelings, how is it that we are often so dull and indifferent, satisfied to say our prayers coldly and without any preparation?
Why do others try so hard to inflame their imagination as if prayer depended on their own efforts, as if it were not necessary that God's action should govern and direct their prayer? Since prayer is a supernatural act, we must earnestly ask God to produce it in us, and then we must perform it tranquilly under his guidance. We must draw down divine grace by our favor and then we must cooperate with it without interfering with its effects. If God does not teach us, we shall never know thoroughly the nature of prayer.
A Wholly Spiritual Act
"God is Spirit," said Jesus, " and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24, KJV). Prayer, then, is a wholly spiritual act, addressed to God who is the Supreme Spirit, the Spirit who sees all things and is present in all things. As St. Augustine says, God is closer to us than we are to ourselves. Knowing this is the essence of prayer. The posture of our body and the words we use have no significance in themselves and are only pleasing to God as they express the feelings of the heart. For it is the heart that prays, it is to the voice of the heart that God listens, and it is the heart that he answers. When we speak of the heart, we mean the most spiritual part of us. In the Scriptures, prayer is always ascribed to the heart, for it is the heart that God teaches and it is through the heart that he enlightens the mind."
Suggested question for discussion with groups or within your own heart: If you were to adopt Grou's advice for the next week, how would your current way of praying be changed?
Suggested exercise: Take the strain and stress out of your prayer life for the next several days. Adopt Grou's advice, letting your awareness of your helplessness, not your personal power, establish your relationship with God."
Easier said than done, right? I am right with you on this portion of prayer as I too am trying diligently to focus my prayer life into something that is "from God" and not just "to God!" I completely understand what he is saying here as of late, I find few words to pray in this political climate that make any sense, so I just start praying the Lord's Prayer and leave it to Him. I feel certain that is what we are suppose to do anyway. I have in the past been way too wordy in my prayers, why do I do that? Is it so others hear how I pray? So that I can be noticed as being a good pray-er or religious sounding...I have yet to come up with a logical conclusion. If Jesus really knows our needs, desires and wants, before we ask, why spend our time in wordy or lengthy prayers listing to HIM all the things He already knows? It's kind of funny/strange but my wonderful husband, when asked to pray at a family meal or at a group event, will often times be heard saying "Lord, thanks for the food, family and friends!"...and that's it! Seriously, that's all you're going to pray! What about all the people that are here and how we love them and what about the hands that have prepared the meal? But truly, the purpose for praying before a meal is to thank the Lord for what He has provided and really there is nothing more! All things come from God, all thoughts begin in the mind, all heart issues, though deep down in the recesses of our hearts, are dealt with by the all-knowing, all-seeing and all-powerful God of the universe - do our words to HIM really matter...at times, I wonder? But I love this portion from Mr Grou:
1. Do we have the feeling of our own insufficiency in our mind and in our heart?
2. Are we conscious of it when we place ourselves in God's presence?
3. Do we begin our prayers with this secret confession? If God does not teach us, we shall never know thoroughly the nature of prayer.
I will be focusing on allowing the Lord to share, with me, my inadequacies in Him, confessing that I cannot comprehend what He is trying to accomplish and I am helpless in a certain situation
but that my soul desire is for The Lord Jesus Christ to teach me what and how to pray along with Him for the trials and burdens so heavy in this time. In times past I (probably most of us)
have been missing something when praying for a particularly complex burden...maybe this will be a door opening for some solidification into our prayer lives?