In prayer, we reach out to God as he reaches out to us. Ponder these meditations about prayer as a starting point in your prayers today.
Prayer and Action
The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. —James 5:16
It’s tempting to underestimate the power of prayer. We tend to think that we only serve others by “doing”—after all, actions are tangible, and most often, so are their effects. But as St. James reminds us, we can also be effective servants through our interior life of prayer:
Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. (James 5:13-16)
Thomas Merton described the interdependence of action and prayer in terms of the intermingling of a spring and a stream. “Unless the waters of the spring are living and flow outward,” he wrote, “the spring becomes only a stagnant pool. And if the stream loses contact with the spring which is its source, it dries up” (No Man Is an Island).
In Merton’s beautiful image, prayer is the spring of living water, and action is the stream that flows out from it to others; for both are borne of the same water. However, if action is out of touch with an interior source of prayer, it eventually becomes arid and barren; and prayer that does not overflow into action is cut off from life. This is the integrity of prayer and action.
Author Emilie Griffin wrote that prayer “is not to be taken on with a mentality of success.” “The goal in prayer,” she explained, “is to give oneself away” (Clinging: the Experience of Prayer). We give ourselves away in prayer by offering our time, our full attention, and a song of praise to God in the silence of our hearts. As we serve God and others through our prayer, the fruit and integrity of our actions will bring great help and healing to others.
Lord, may the living waters of your Spirit enrich my life, so that my prayer and actions are a reflection of your love that flows freely to others.
Poverty in Prayer
Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. —Ephesians 6:18
Janet is a true prayer warrior. She is the “go-to gal” in our women’s group for any and every prayer need that is on the hearts of those in our parish. While many people participate in the prayer chain, Janet is one of the few able to devote not just a few minutes but many hours to prayer for others, and she usually does just that.
It seems that anyone who calls or drops by finds that Janet was “just offering up a little prayer.” Sometimes it is as simple as a prayer for her niece to pass a spelling test, while another day it could be as dire as the need for a miracle to stop a growing tumor. Each prayer gets the same amount of “praying time” from Janet. Her trust in the Lord’s provision seems to grow stronger with every intercessory prayer she offers, whether the prayers are answered or not. While others get discouraged by “unanswered” prayers, Janet seems all the more determined in her prayer life—thus the label of “warrior,” which truly fits this dedicated woman of faith.
Seen as a prayer “veteran” by the younger women in our church, Janet was asked to share the secret of her prayer life with others over tea. Clearly uncomfortable with “all the fuss,” Janet confessed that her most effective times of prayer were the ones when she said virtually nothing at all. “Sometimes I just bring people to the altar and leave them there,” she explained. “I have no idea what to say, but I know that God knows what to do with them. I carry them there with my prayers, but God does all the work!”
Janet has no secret formula or special hotline to God, just an incredibly simple faith that focuses more on her relationship with Christ than on the results of her prayers. For every prayer request, she simply empties her heart before Christ and trusts in his loving response to the needs she presents. In this way, we can all be prayer warriors. We can be women of tenacious trust with rich prayer lives if we will surrender to God’s goodness and leave the results to him.
Lord, deepen my faith and relationship with you through my prayer life.
Anne Costa is a spiritual coach, motivational speaker, and best-selling author of Lord, I Hurt! and Refresh Me, Lord! Meditations to Renew a Woman’s Spirit from which these excerpts are taken. Her books are available at Amazon and your local bookstore.