Answer me when I call, O God of my right!
You gave me room when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.
(Psalm 4:1 NRSV)
The more I think about prayer, the more questions surface in my heart. What is the purpose of prayer? Is prayer something to practice or is it practicing the presence of God? Does prayer change things or does it change me?
In reading Psalm 4 today, the opening verse sheds some light on my quandary. God can be trusted to bring about right in my life. He listens. He answers. He enlarges my perspective when I am in distress. Just being in His presence is grace. When I make prayer more than an entrance into His presence, I lose sight of the purpose of prayer—communion.
God makes room for me. He invites me to empty myself, to recognize my nothingness in light of His all-ness. He offers me various opportunities to express my love to Him. The capacity of God staggers me. And His very being thrills me like a spacious room. To be empty is to make space for God’s fullness.
Here’s an emptying prayer from early church history:
Sever me from myself that I may be grateful to you;
may I perish to myself that I may be safe in you;
may I die to myself that I may live in you;
may I wither to myself that I may blossom in you;
may I be emptied of myself that I may abound in you;
may I be nothing to myself that I may be all to you.
(Desiderius Erasmus, 1466-1536)
What is the purpose of prayer in your life?