When there is a very big problem, one that effects the lives of millions, there is a way to address it meaningfully and forcefully through prayer. When there is a pernicious, persistent, slippery personal issue, the same is true. Prayer is often referenced, but it is referenced as a last resort, or with a shrug, as if it were a thin reply to the event triggering the request. Prayer is a hearty reply. One of the icons in my own studies refers to the highest order of faith as “mere” faith. What he means is that the finer the faith, the more subtle it is, the more terrifyingly powerful it is because the believer is saturated by God and therefore wears and wields faith effortlessly, as only a master can. An excellent teacher is one who can speak at great length, depth, and breadth about complex components of his or her field. True mastery is clear when all pretense is erased and only the substantive core of the matter is addressed without embellishment. Such a master only speaks to those whose inquiries are authentic, because they recognize and will not suffer fools. Therefore, with a question posed and answered, the exchange between master/mistress and pupil is highly efficient and leaves both parties utterly sated because the intellectual/spiritual/emotional meal they share is true and whole.
Impose, then, this scenario upon God and you. One issue that impedes prayer is that the pray-er is often thinking that emotion plays a part in the event, like dusting sugar on a cake to add impact. This misconception can be seen two ways – one in false severity, the other in false happiness. Of course there are two parties to prayer, you, and God. There is no impediment on the pray-ee, upon God. God is categorically immune to pretense, and needs no special perception to discover the true disposition of the other party. You cannot manufacture any kind of “feeling” to augment prayer. Pure heartedness is not a feeling; it does not look like anything, save that it is so true as to fit like a perfect set of clothing fits.
There is a holy story about wedding clothes. A self-made man of nearly infinite means hosts a wedding and invites powerful friends from the family’s peer group. Those peers make excuses, lame ones, excuses that are falsely pious or otherwise insultingly hypocritical. The host of the wedding, however, has the will, the absolute intention to have guests at the wedding worthy of the sacred event being hosted. Looking for guests, the host sends employees into the streets to distribute coveted, VIP invitations to this royal wedding. The exclusive nature of the event is not in any way disturbed by the guests at the event. The event itself IS royal, sacred, wholly perfect, and is independent of those attending, so in no way does the “quality” of the guests determine the quality of the party. Eventually enough people have been gathered from the streets to fill the wedding hall.
Of course, since this is a family sitting at the pinnacle of material wealth and social status, the guests gathered from the street are unfit in every respect. They lack the manners, the education, and the basic skills to function at an event that is ten million orders of magnitude beyond the limits of their regular lives. Faced with this fact, the host provides the guests with all the equipment they need to be fit guests. In the story, as you navigate it, you wonder at the largess of such a host, and then your frown at the seemingly frivolous waste the host displays in scouring the streets for guests who did not ask to be invited and are completely unfit to attend, and yet this host does more than issue an invitation, the host then takes responsibility for the fitness of the guests, as if this were somehow also the host’s responsibility, and, even if it were, as if the exercise itself would even be possible!
This is the relationship between God and a believer. The fitness required for a peer to peer relationship with God is laughably impossible to achieve. Yet this is both the demand and the requirement for a believer. If God is permitted to be the tailor of my life, if I allow God, God will outfit me for an intimate relationship with God. Long, long, long into the (would be for me) tedious process of outfitting me to be capable of setting a toe into the inner circle, there does come a moment when the suit fits, when the vestment is whole, knitted to the frame, sewn into the marrow of the believer. Then, let us imagine that wedding feast again, and me, there I am, a whore scooped from the street, a whore that God has retailored now daily for 42 long years, if now, at ease in the presence of my Master and Host, I lean over during this wedding and whisper into God’s ear on behalf, or in pursuit of a matter I know only God has the power to address, then I have really done something, something earthshattering, something unequalled in magnitude. There is no barrier between the one praying and the one who grants prayers in that moment, no obfuscation. The conduction is pure, the injection of the request potent, pure, and accurate, and, on the receiving end God’s response is instant like light, so quick as to be immeasurable, and so perfect and complete that not one iota of the evil, suffering, damage, or infection remain, and the object of the conversation, whatever it may be, is made whole.
In this picture there is no groveling, no measuring occurring. The prayer is efficacious because God has seen fit to make it so. The prayer is answered not due to the immaculate position of the one praying, but due to the staggering largess of God, whose inconceivable, nearly embarrassing disposition it is to love us without ceasing, to impose value on people who do nothing to earn it. God endlessly works throughout our immediate world to do such things for us. One outcome of this work, if you allow it, is that your prayers become exceedingly powerful. If you determine to undertake a life of prayer it will feel like nothing at all. It will look like nothing at all. And it will be everything.