Journey of Prayer

By Bonnie McClure

Prayer is so intimate. When we can become still enough to engage with it, we find ourselves facing our raw insides and feebly we attempt to articulate our hearts’ true desires and fears. Often we know immediately the truth about us is obscured. Either by distraction, discomfort, or disassociation, we find that speaking honestly from our hearts takes more transparency than we are very practiced at allowing.

But all good practices begin with bad attempts.

I have had, over the years, prayers placed in my hands from the desperation of others looking for guidance, healing, affirmation, and hope. My sensitivity for empathy would come to deeply revere the vulnerability that it takes to ask someone to take a struggle or trial before God.

“I’ll pray for you,” is more than a pleasant nod, a polite sympathy, it is an invitation to act in the faith we proclaim we believe in together and raise the matter of what we see before the eternal, which is unseen.

This transforms us.

Just because it isn’t seen doesn’t mean it is less real, and Jesus tries to explain this to us in the simplest way he knows how, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40).

It isn’t seeing to believe, that would be like refusing to plant the seed until we see for ourselves the fully bloomed flower. No, instead it is believing to see, burying the small kernel in the dark soil, leaving it there to bask in the sunlight and watering it faithfully. There is only one order of operations here: First, Believe. Second, See.

My prayers have looked different over time and previously this has bothered me. Until I considered every other area of development and I notice how it takes a fair amount of bumping and bruising your way along to come into a formation of something strong, lasting, and true.

The gate is narrow but the way is broad. Jesus is the constant that draws my myriad of prayer experiences together into one straight line wherein all points to him. I have said prayers of desperation, prayers of rote ritual, prayers where I know I am consumed with my own selfishness, prayers where I surrender everything, prayers where I say nothing, prayers where I insist on staying with a matter because I know to abandon it is to enter an agreement that God is not at work and though something tempts me heavily to give up, I won’t.

I have learned to pray by listening. I have learned to pray by repeating. I have learned to pray by Scripture. I have learned to pray through fasting. I have learned to pray by attempting to connect to the love of God within me. I have learned to pray as if what I ask has already been accomplished.

For this is our promise, if the weary thought has materialized in my mind, then God is 25,000 steps ahead of me, already at work, and while the outcome may not resemble what I would prefer, I can rest in knowing there are a million tiny miracles I’ve probably already taken for granted and a million tiny miracles he will lead me through to come.

“I believe. Help my unbelief” (Mark 9:23-25). In other words, I’ve seen your work, God, I know it is true. The world can produce every reason to doubt you, every evidence to discredit you, but the Word you gave me speaks truth directly into my life, it transforms everything and everyone around me, and I believe you are present … yet … there is this persistent resistance that I live with, this daily fight to lull me back into the safety of what I can touch and asks me to bow down to what sits on the thrones of my world. My unbelief, this pesky, little, human tendency that fears the world may actually be the true reflection.

To believe fully, it is not just a matter of effort that we can crank up, roll up our sleeves and signal a virtue with God. We can demonstrate duty, honor, and virtue with everyone except God.

God sees the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). And we don’t have to be ashamed of that. He sees it more clearly than we do. With our judgments of right and wrong, justifications, narratives and self-deception, he wipes all that clear, if we let him, and instead he himself forms in us, he is born in us, but it isn’t all at once with great clamor, remember? The child in the stable?

And I think but I don’t know that this mystery of prayer within us is akin to the way God can be the Trinity – three in one Godhead. He can be God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit all in one and all at once, but somehow also separate and independent of himself.

We see this mystery also in the names of God that are called upon throughout Scripture, God can be all at once and also separate and independent of himself:

• Healer (Exodus 15:26)
• Provider (Genesis 22:14)
• Banner of Victory (Exodus 17:15)
• Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:9-10)

There is no equivalent in our human experience for this type of totality of existence.

These are more than just different aspects or ways of relating to God, and yet these identities do not compete with one another. Being any more of a Healer does not diminish his capacity for being Provider. Often I must choose which cause to devote my energy to but God does not divide himself among the wonderful things he is. He is whole all the time and yet still accommodates for the intricacies that every need requires.

And when you start to open the door to what God could really be beyond our self imposed limitations, then we get an inkling of what prayer may really be, beyond our fledgling definitions and experiences.

All at once personal, intimate, and hidden, but also global, eternal, and revealing.

Consider the great I AM speaking through the “I am” statements of Jesus:

• The bread (John 6:35)
• The light (John 8:12)
• The shepherd (John 10:11)
• The vine (John 15:1)

Or the fruits of the Spirit. They are sourced from one singular thing: Jesus.

And so I grow to love that my prayers can be ritualistic and also divinely Spirit-led, scattered and broken and also powerful and focused, personal desires and also borne of selfless love for another, immediate physical needs and also spiritual goals that take many years to develop, logistical positions that must be filled and also wants that enrich my relationships, about things that are out of my control and also about things that are well within my control.

And it is in this way, holding these paradoxes, I make room in my heart for God to cover a multitude of sin with his multitude of love.

In this life, we get little glimpses of what love may be like, but here in our world they all inevitably lead to brokenness. But it’s okay because these expressions of love are not God, they’re human.

God’s is the only perfect and perfecting love. How sweet he gives us the journey of prayer to experience it.    

Bonnie McClure is an active member of her Methodist community in Bremen, Georgia. She writes regularly about Christian Healing on her Substack blog, The Pointed Arrow.


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