Do you often feel like a failure in prayer. Listen to the words of a cistercian monk, Michael Casey, “Prayer cannot be measured on a scale of success or failure because it is God’s work – and God always succeeds. When we believe we have failed in prayer, it is because we decided what shape our prayer should have and are now frustrated that there is nothing we can do to implement our ambition.” In other words prayer become our effort; a matter of performace. God is not looking for our performance. He is looking for a real relationship. He has already sought us out. What a relief it is to realize that prayer is not initated by me, but rather by God. He is more eager for us to know him, then we are to know him. Paul tells us, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in ourweakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Rom. 8:26)
So prayer is more about our consent rather then our initiative. We make room for God by being attentive to his presence with us and in us and cultivating an openness to his initiative. It’s like a dance, where he takes to lead, but we have to get out on the dance floor. This kind of openness can be difficult for us men, because openness demands trust. Our natural posture is that of being guarded, having a difficult time trusting the goodness of God. What God looks for us is posture of vulnerability and honesty. He already know what is going on in our minds and hearts. Nothing surprises him. He is simply waiting for us to become real. Jesus tells us, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matt 6:8).
Part of our problem as men, is that in our effort to please God, we have made reduced faith to beliefs and certain practices. But prayer, if it is real and honest will involves more of our hearts. For the heart is where we really live. The opposite of faith is not unbelief, but rather mistrust. “Faith,” suggests David Benner is, “leaning with confidence into God.” Picture yourself leaning against something. You trust that it will hold you upright. Your whole body depends on that fact. Faith is like that. We trust that God is good and are willing to lean into his goodness.
God will always hear the prayer that is expressed in honesty and trust in him. Any other prayer, will not be communicating reality, that is, the way things are between God and ourselves. So trust and faith need to support our prayer. When there is trust in God’s goodness, we find ourselves surrendering to the mysterious inner dynamic as we submit to what God is doing in our hearts. If we trust enough to let go, God will give to us a gift of prayer communion that comes from him, rather then our effort. So I encourage you men, to lean into the goodness of God. He is lovingly and mercifully desiring to have fellowship with you. He will receive you were you are and share his heart with you. “For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of Gold except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us” (I Cor. 2:11-12)