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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

Prayer's Courage

It is possible to approach prayer recklessly. Many treat the Lord as if He were a vending machine or a personal servant, or a projection of their own ego. They are impatient when the Mighty God does not gratify their momentary whims. They do not realize that it is possible to offend Him. Hardly mindful of what they have just asked and from whom they have asked it, some even rashly rebuff the One who only desires their good. This happens often when the heart allows itself to be ruled by anxiety or greed or hubris.

In a humble cry to the Lord, we can find freedom from the tyranny that possessions and power hold over us. In adoration before the Holy One, anxieties can be made subject to true hope. In repentance, sin to compunction. In attentiveness to the Word of the Father, self-delusion to truth. Such efforts at prayer, when offered with a bowed head and bended knee, can even find reverence and awe. When the shoes of the daily routine are removed and the cacophony of one's own self torment is silenced, there is space in the heart to acknowledge the awesome majesty of God. Jesus humbly whispered on loving lips and in the trusting heart stills every storm. It is also possible to approach the Lord without courage. Rather than humbly acknowledging one's place before the Lord and respectfully unfolding the deep pain that troubles one's heart, we can hold up a protective distance. It is not respect but fear to think that if we ask from Him, He will ask of us. It is cowardly to reject the desires of the Almighty God simply because they do not respect the familiar limits that we prefer for ourselves. It is timid then to tell ourselves that our lives are good enough, that we do not need to change. We are afraid that the Lord just might call us out of Ur, that He might extend an unexpected friendship, and that we might have to leave everything familiar, convenient and comfortable behind. What He asks is inconvenient because love is inconvenient: fearful of what this might mean, we draw back from the Lord even as we use just the right formulas to convince ourselves that this is not what we are actually doing. We not only fear the truth about what He will ask of us: we fear the truth that He is showing us about ourselves. We have not yet guessed the greatness of the sacrifice that He has created us to render. We would prefer to remain ignorant of this hidden secret. What will we have left if we give Him whatever He wants? To offer a contrite spirit to the Lord takes great courage. To be humble and vulnerable before His majesty takes more heart than anyone can generate on their own. Yet the courage to offer prayer in a manner that searches the deep things of God does not come from ourselves. It is a gift given from above. Those who know this gift also know confidence in the goodness of the Father. They have discovered a strength to stand, even before the gates of hell, with the triumphant Heart.

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