What Happens To Us When We Pray

Today I'm continuing my reflections on prayer--how it works, what happens when we pray, etc.  And particularly on what actually happens to us when we pray.  

I've written here before about Anne Lamott's excellent little book on prayer, Help, Thanks, Wow, within which she posits that most of us pray three kinds of prayers: prayers for divine aid during times of trouble, prayers of gratitude, and prayers of awe and wonder.  

But it's the prayers for help that we seem to pray the most.  And for many of us, we have come to offer up these prayers in very transactional kinds of ways.  We want God to resolve an issue, perhaps.  Or deliver our desires, needs and wants.

Sometimes, we even pray what I  call "If/Then" prayers--the kind of prayer where you say, "God IF you do this... THEN I will do that..."  That's also known as bargaining, and I've learned that it actually works about 1/10 of 1% of the time, and yet I still try it.  

And when we pray with this mindset, we miss out on all of the rich, transforming and life-giving power that can be ours if we enter into prayer with an openness that can only come from surrender.  

You see, when we pray, we tap into the transforming power of the Spirit that not only connects us with others but also enables us to experience our own transformation as we pray.   

Prayer gives us the opportunity to practice mindfulness, surrender, awareness, and a connectedness with God that is often challenging to experience outside of the act of prayer.  

Fr. Richard Rohr puts it like this: 
"...we trivialized the precious word [prayer] by making it functional, transactional and supposedly about problem-solving.  The only problem prayer solves is you!  And that is a big problem indeed."
As you pray today, be mindful of the way your prayers are changing you--affecting the way you think about others, and even yourself.  

Be aware of the presence of God around you, and take courage in that presence.  And then allow yourself to surrender to the flow of the Holy Spirit--wherever the Spirit might be leading. 

And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.  


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