I’ve been thinking about what it means to pray. In author Anne Lamott’s book, Help, Thanks, Wow, she recounts these three simple prayers that helped her through life’s challenges. Her writing summarizes how most of us pray in desperation as we cry out, God, please help me, when we’re dying of thirst in the deserts of our lives, when our bank accounts seem to be leaking, when change isn’t happening as we want, when we’re walking on a tight rope in a stressful situation and need supernatural help. And don’t we all Wow and thank God for getting us off the hook.
Even Jesus in Gethsemane cried out a prayer of Help before his death on the cross, Abba, Father, he cried out, everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me! I think these kinds of request prayers for Help come when our faith diminishes, when fear overshadows faith.
But there’s a higher way of prayer – the prayer of abiding, of starting our day in complete surrender to thy will be done, and making this the destination of our prayer life. It’s a prayer that’s like diving into an ocean of faith, of going into faith’s blissful heart, becoming one with its vastness, its silence, letting its tides and currents shift us toward divine destinations in all we do.
If we make abiding the only destination of our daily prayers, becoming one with God, worry, anxieties, plotting and planning dissolve into non-existence as we become vehicles for God’s creative force shaping our lives. Abiding seems the ultimate prayer, a divine doorway for manifestation of God’s unfolding will. It’s the prayer of becoming a branch on the vine where we co-create with God, blooming the fruits of the spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, blossoming the peace that surpasses all understanding.
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. – Jesus
Living the abiding prayer also brings promise of Jesus words, I came to give life—life that is full and good. It’s a way of life exemplifying the famous words of Julian of Norwich, All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.
This abiding prayer sounds so simple, but its difficult really and why we so often slip into desperate please of help for God’s provisions and protections, rather than simply making our daily prayer one of complete surrender and faith.
Why did even Jesus find abiding so difficult as he faced the cross, even when he knew he would rise again on the third day? We might think Jesus could have surrendered to Thy Will, to his destiny of the cross knowing he’d rise again, fearlessly facing his death without fear and despair. We might think the shield of faith would have softened the blows of the whip’s lashes, numbing the physical pain of nails being driven through his hands and feet, and quenching his deathly thirst.
It was Jesus’ humanness, it’s our humanness that causes loss of faith, that brings us cowering onto our knees and crying out with feeble Help prayers. Many of us who might think we’re spiritually mature, find at times we’re actually still like faith babies and needing to pray simple prayers like Help, Thanks, Wow. I think of the disciples asking Jesus how they should pray, and Jesus giving them the ABC of prayers, The Our Father, a short cut sort of prayer simplifying the magnificence of God’s way.
I believe when we no longer need elementary rote prayers because of robust faith, when we trust our daily bread is provided, knowing we’re already forgiven and forgive those who trespass against us, and that we’re already protected, we’re already living the abiding prayer. When we face our day, knowing we already stand on holy ground in the kingdom here on earth, and that God, the maker of our destiny provides all, we flourish like fields of orchards and all is well, in all manner of things are well.
The abiding prayer is living and moving and having our being in God.
Vivo autem iam non ego vivit vero in me Christus.
I live not I but Christ lives in me.- Galations 2:20
May we pray simple prayers to live the prayer of abiding.
Will you join me this week in this prayer?