I have mentioned David Benner on this blog site in the past. He has helped me a great deal in thinking through the issues regarding Christian spirituality. I highly recommand all of his writings. His latest book “Opening to God” is a great book on prayer. I will be going back to it often. There is some much to digest. But here is one comment he makes early in the book. “The real problem (with prayer) and the core of the misunderstanding lies in thinking of prayer as something that we do. Understood more correctly, prayer is what God does in us. Our part has much more to do with consent than initiative. That consent……is most simply saying yes to God’s invitation to loving encounter.”
I assume that prayer as consent on our part as men is more difficult then for women. Mary, of course, is the model of consent when she responded to God, “May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38). It is not easy for men to be lead to the place spiritually where effort and achievement are no longer the primary motivating factors in our prayer life. We spend to much time evaluated how we are doing, rather then just being. Prayer is a transforming relationship that God has already initiated with each of us. Our part, “is simply making space for God, turning to God with attentiveness and openness” (Benner). God is much more interested in have a relationship with us then we are. What a difference when we can see prayer as an invitation to a loving relationship that is already present rather then an obligation or task on our part. God simply waits for our consent to his deep desire of wanting to reveal himself to us.
What is needed on our part in openness before God. This is not easy. I still work at this in my relationship with God. I am always trying to put my best self forward, while trying to hiding my “junk.” God lovingly, “invites us to come in faith that expresses itself in vulnerability and brutal self-honestly”. With my growing assurance that God loves me in my junk, I can come to him with more openness and trust, knowing he is the one who is initiating the relationship. I must always remember that this relationship is first and foremost based on love. This allows prayer then becomes an encounter of my true self with the true God. Too often it is my false self being present to a God of my own imagination. What a difference when there is no fear of being real and truthful in prayer. This is what will make prayer transformative. In greater honesty I am opening hidden parts of my life to God. He has always been at the center waiting for me to become “real.” It is God who does the healing in my heart, thus bringing about transformation.
So men I encourage you not to think of prayer as an obligation, but rather as an invitation. Think of prayer as an invitation to encounter love. I close with one more quote from Benner. I encourage you to take this to heart. “Settle for nothing less than knowing God in love. This begins by knowing the depths of God’s love for you. All of us need to regularly return to this knowing. In fact, you can never get enough of it. Everything else that is required of you in life – your love of God, yourself and others – all flows out of your personal knowing of God’s extravagant love for you”