One of Satan’s darkest schemes involves elevating prayer as the center beam of life, love and mission, but wrapping it in a veneer of duty. When prayer becomes less than love, it becomes just another discipline, or function, that gets in the way of our devotion, instead of enhancing it. Stop for a moment and ask God, ‘have I drifted, even a little, from a purely in-love position when it comes to prayer?’ If the answer is yes, then return.
In the first chapter of Isaiah, God says, “return to the house of God.” His people had wandered from love. Henry Nouwen once said, “God’s love does not require any explanations about why we are returning. God is glad to see us home and wants to give us all we desire, just for being home.” I like that, because sometimes even our lament and repent, as it relates to prayer, can become a duty that drains love.
Prayer so often surprises us. What we never dreamed could happen, does, in spite of us. That’s because God is not an answering machine. He doesn’t take our message to Him, and play it back with our voice. He is a Holy Father. He takes our human utterances, and often words too deep for expression, and cradles them in His hands, returning those best for His Kingdom to advance, and our love to flourish. The heart of prayer is relationship, not a list of requests. After we trust God for our, and others needs, then intercede with all the strength God supplies, in the power of the Holy Spirit, the best part of prayer has finally come. We rest from the struggle, and receive the love residuals our time with Him has fostered. Prayer has little meaning outside of love, because our relationship with God has one object—to love with all heart the One who gave Himself for us. Prayer will take us into that sacrifice, that crucible, like nothing else.