In-Sight: Who Is Praying?

I don’t think I will ever really understand prayer, and my desire for understanding diminishes when I have to pray in the presence of confusion, suffering, and uncertainty.

I’m going through a time like that right now, and just this morning I found insight and comfort from a sentence in Ridchard Rohr’s e-letter….

Basically prayer is an exercise in divine participation—you opting in and God always there! 

Fresh Wind from the Holy Spirit blew through me when I read those words, and I experienced yet another “spring cleaning of the soul.”

In the larger writing Rohr simply asks, “Who is doing the praying?”  And he points out that it is God, not us.  We are only invited to enter into what God is already doing, and prayer is the means by which we do that.

I believe this is true to biblical teaching (e.g. Romans 8:26), and I have often used this perspective to teach that our words (in prayer) are always a response to God’s prior Word (revelation).  But it took Richard Rohr’s writing to re-awaken this reality in me–and to do it at just the time I needed to be reminded of this.

When I enter into “God’s praying,” I can praise or lament, because God looks at life sometimes through the emotion of celebration and sometimes through the pain of deep sorrow.  My prayers do not always have to be “positive” because what I am looking at is not positive.  Through the Spirit, I am enabled and allowed to see life the way God sees it.

I am free to say, “I don’t understand,” because I am speaking to the One and Only One who does.  I do not have to pray with any more wisdom or strength than I actually have, because I am not trying to make things happen in my power.

And…when positive answers come, I am not tempted to nominate my prayer as the one that “did it,” because I know God is the One who accomplished it.

I hope this is making sense to you.  I hope I am putting into words what I have recently re-experienced about prayer.  I am free to pray, because my prayers are only the doorways for entering into the praying God is already doing!

This throws open the gates to what my mentor in prayer (Dr. Thomas Carruth) often called: “total prayer for total living.”  In one moment I can exclaim, “Hallelujah!.”  In another moment I can cry out, “Please, No!”  I do this in faith, believing that as God looks at the same life experience (way before I notice it), these are His words as well.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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3 Responses to In-Sight: Who Is Praying?

  1. As I began to read this sharing, I thought about Dr. Tom Carruth. His book on 40 days of Love is one of my treasures. I have always known that you cannot pray if you don’t love and love is the answer to every prayer. Recently I have been praying for a pastor friend who is evidencing weariness. I am prompted by God to pray for him and wrote to him telling him he was in my thoughts and prayers. I immediately received a response that things were very busy for him right now and prayers were needed. Another pastor friend saw him last week and wrote me that we really need to pray as the exhaustion was profound and there might be concern for some physical issues involved, therefore, the love God gave me in prayer for this individual doubled in another prayer partner.
    Working with Dr. Carruth in healing at Lake Junaluska and hearing him pray was one of my greatest joys.
    Thanks, Steve. You are one of my connections to Asbury. I enjoyed Asbury at the Lake and having classes with Maxie Dunnam and Dr. J. Ellsworth Kalas. I miss those opportunities. I enjoy Dr. Ben Witherington’s blogs also. Blessings to you and yours.

  2. Susan Cosby says:

    Steve, thank you so much for this post. First, for confessing that you ever struggle with prayer!!! I believe that gives one like me hope! Second, I can’t even express how encouraged I am, as one who often fears I don’t do it “right!” This is huge for me!! Blessings!!

  3. Steve says:

    Brother Steve, Thank for this great reminder. What a magnificent truth to live. May we be enveloped by His prayers.

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