I have been paying attention lately to the way I pray, and I have a confession. Most of the time when I pray, I am asking God to do something for me. Oh, I disguise it cleverly. Most of the time, I even manage to hide it from myself. After all, I pray for lots of other people, and I pray for our leaders and our country and for important global issues. But I know I can’t hide it from God. One way or another, I always manage to get around to the issues that are important to me.
In case you are wondering, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Most of us need God to help us get through the day. I can’t really imagine praying without asking for God’s help. But I was reading about the disciples recently, and I realized that at some point they stopped asking what God could do for them, and started asking what God could do with them. If you read the history of what happened after the resurrection, it produced a fairly major transformation. They had begun their ministries as fearful and unsure followers of a man whom they did not fully understand. But after the resurrection, they became passionate and fearless, asking what God could do with them, and the work they then started eventually changed the world.
I think I’m beginning to understand something very subtle about the practice of prayer, and perhaps also about what it means to be a person of faith. It may be that, at some point, the most important thing God can do for us is to do something with us. Spiritual energy is what takes place when we feel connected to a vision and purpose that is greater and more important than ourselves. It is what happens when a person is devoted to a principle or cause that is transcendent in nature. And it is what defeats our tendency to feel sorry for ourselves or to lapse into narcissism or depression.
I am now working on the prepositions in my prayer life. It seems like such a small change, but it may be that doing something with me is God’s best chance of doing something for me.
Rev. Don Underwood