When we face challenges, prayer comes out naturally, even unconsciously. Prayer is such a fundamental state. It is, however, often misunderstood and misused. Most of the time, when we say, “we pray hard,” which is our intention to accomplish self-wills.
We pray for our health, happiness, and even success. If, however, we pray hard for these things alone, then it is no longer prayer, but sorcery. A lot of us have been confused between both.
Prayer should never be in the state of “I want.” Counterintuitively, it should be in the state of “I surrender” or the state of “let go.”
Meister Eckhart articulates this difference as follows:
And therefore in the very best kind of prayer that we can pray there should be no ‘give me this particular virtue or way of devotion’ or ‘yes, Lord, give me yourself or eternal life’, but rather ‘Lord, give me only what you will and do, Lord, only what you will and in the way that you will’. This kind of prayer is as far above the former as heaven is above earth. And when we have prayed in this way, then we have prayed well, having gone out of ourselves and entered God in true obedience. But just as true obedience should have no ‘I want this’, neither should it ever hear ‘I don’t want’, for ‘I don’t want’ is pure poison for all true obedience.Meister Eckhart
Prayer should be as far above as heaven is above the earth. If prayer acts as sorcery, that contains full of our secular wishes, resting heavily on earth. True prayer, on the other hand, leads us to the state of surrender and obedience, sensing a glimpse of heaven and eternity.
How can we keep our prayer from sorcery? We can learn a tip from Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). It is one of the best templates for true prayer. When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray. He taught them this prayer.
- Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
- Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
- Give us this day our daily bread.
- And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
- And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
- For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
The first thing we should do is to praise. In prayer, we should declare and acknowledge the heaven where His glory, almighty, and eternity reside. Without this, true prayer can never start. Without this, our consciousness can never separate from our secular mind.
Secondly, we should acknowledge the fact that we pray Him here on earth. His kingdom is within us, neither here nor there. Knowing this infinite gap between heaven and earth, we can see this true prayer is our humble yet bold effort of reconnection. Only in doing so, the sense of awe, fear, and trembling emerges within us.
The third line is the reminder that we have our mission in this world. Even if it is temporary, we have to do our best to fully live our life day by day at every moment on this earth. And yet, this effort immediately reminds us of our imperfect, secular, selfish, sinful being. We always make mistakes, easily accuse ourselves and others, and endlessly struggle with a series of blaming games.
That is why, the fourth line tells us the truth that His undeserved love has forgiven our sins. Without this repentance and realization, we can never forgive others. Otherwise, our act of forgiving others would generate our spiritual pride, which is one of our worst sinful enemies.
Such a prideful ego is our false self, which is vulnerable to various temptations. Like the serpent who talked to Eve in the garden of Eden; like the devil who tempted Jesus in the wilderness, our false self is always trying to convince us in various ways; we should be like this or like that, etc. Listening to this inner false self-talk, we would end up with full of our strong wills. That is why, we always have to pray “deliver us from evil.”
Lastly, once again, we must remind ourselves. Prayer is the act of surrender. It is never “I will” but “He will” alone. All we can do is declare and reconfirm the truth that the kingdom, glory, and power are forever His.
Image by James Chan