If I understand you correctly, you believe that a posture of receiving, surrender, and gratitude are ways that prayer can be more “effective.” Do you have conscious prayer practices that allow for you to be less in a place of striving and more in that place of receiving, surrender, and gratitude?
This is why the Jesus Prayer [“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me” – “Kirie, eleison”] is so important and helpful to me. When I simply pray, “Lord, have mercy” with an open heart and open hands, I’m very deliberate in the following intentions:
1. I am entering into my highest and clearest sense of who God is. God is All-Merciful. And if God is all-merciful in his very nature, character, and intentions, then it is that God, revealed in Jesus, who I deliberately ‘plug into’ or unite with when I pray. I focus on the God who is self-giving love, not someone I need to beg, bribe, or dread. God the ‘all-merciful’ seems to be a ‘cleaner’ vision of God than what my fleshly instincts or religious background would suggest.
2. As I plug into my connection with God as all-merciful, I become convinced that the prayer, “Lord, have mercy,” isalways in his will and that every single time I pray it, I can do so with confidence that he will hear and answer with none other than mercy. It’s the prayer that is answered in the affirmative 100% of the time!
3. At the same time, that prayer includes an intention of both complete surrender and total openness.
a. Specifically, by praying, “Lord, have mercy,” I am laying down my demands and agendas of what and when his mercy must look like. I may also ask for specifics… health for the sick, help for the poor, wholeness for the broken, etc., but by praying “Lord, mercy,” I am reminding myself that Christ determines how he’ll answer, not me. I let go of outcomes at some point, knowing that God is a Good Shepherd who knows what we need.
b. But I am also opening up at the same time. There are so many ways that God’s mercy manifests that I can’t imagine it and don’t want to prescribe limits to it. God’s ways are not only higher than mine (incomprehensible); God’s ways are wiser, better, and more expansive than what I could hope for or ask … for God alone is perfect goodness. And so are God’s responses.
4. As an aid to my surrender (my letting go process), along with my “Lord, have mercy” prayers, I often need to employ a visual for myself: I picture myself handing over whatever I’m praying for (a person, a burden, a situation) into Christ’s caring hands. I ‘see’ the person or need in my mind and ask Christ to lay his wounded hands on that person, that burden, or that wound, and to pour his healing love into that person or situation – body, soul, and spirit.
5. Finally, I may also ask Christ for a promise or further direction in how he’d like me to pray. I listen as best I can, knowing that God is better at speaking than I am at hearing, and I pray in good faith as best I can hear. No grandiose ‘God told me claims,’ but at the same time, Jesus does promise that under the New Covenant, the Spirit will indeed guide, direct, and counsel us into the truth. So at some point, I expect that to be true.
I can’t say that these are magical points that have made me more measurably ‘effective’ in prayer. But it’s what I have that currently reduces the angst that I have around intercessory prayer.
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Brad Jersak is an author and teacher based in Abbotsford, BC. He serves as a reader and monastery preacher at All Saints of North America Orthodox Monastery. Read More