Prayer is both the simplest and most difficult of spiritual practices. We need it, we desire it, it is not actually hard to do—and yet even deeply committed believers can struggle at times with prayerlessness. The reasons we give for this neglect take many forms, but they often boil down to some version of “I’m too busy.” Underneath these rationalizations lies a deeper reason: Our pride continually pulls us toward self-reliance, so we avoid the God-reliance that’s at the very heart of prayer.
“Our problem is that we assume prayer is something to master the way we master algebra or auto mechanics. That puts us in the ‘on-top’ position, where we are competent and in control,” Richard Foster writes in Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home. “But when praying, we come ‘underneath,’ where we calmly and deliberately surrender control.” Prayer invites us into dependence—a kneeling and openhanded posture of the heart—where we are blessed to remember that it is he who made us, and not we ourselves.
It’s this posture of creaturely humility—of utter reliance upon God—that our souls deeply long for. When we enter into prayer, we enter into a sweet relief. What solace we find as we throw off our delusions of self-reliance and acknowledge that God is God and we are not!
Even in the very act of praying, we are reliant upon God. While prayer certainly involves our intention and will, we aren’t the main actors in the work of prayer—God is. As Kristen Deede Johnson explores, prayer is a response to God, who is alive and ever present.
This special issue spotlights the voices and perspectives of women as we explore this topic of great import for the whole church. From candid discussions of prayer amid suffering and doubt to stories of prayer mentors from history and God’s answers to prayer, these articles challenge us to experience prayer as a life-giving invitation rather than a guilt-ridden “should” on our spiritual to-do list.
Brother Lawrence, the 17th-century Carmelite monk, beckons us beyond our hollow excuses and preoccupations, envisioning prayer for us in simple terms. He wrote, “It is not necessary to be always in church to be with God, we can make a private chapel of our heart where we can retire from time to time to commune with Him, peacefully, humbly, lovingly; everyone is capable of these intimate conversations with God.”
No matter what is happening in our lives, through prayer we can retreat into a beautiful sanctuary with the Lord. We can speak to God in this chapel any time we want. We can sit silently, or cry, or voice our questions, or rejoice. We can be with God there. For “surely I am with you always,” Christ promised, “to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).
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