Upon cracking open Philip Yancey’s book, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? — before Chapter 1, before the Table of Contents, on an otherwise blank page the reader is straightaway met with the stark words of William James:
“The reason why we pray is simply that we cannot help praying.”
Cannot help praying? How is that? To most prayer is at best a struggle: to find the time, the words, the motivation… How can it be said that we cannot help but pray?
Thomas Merton observed, “Prayer is an expression of who we are… a living incompleteness… an emptiness that calls for fulfillment.”
When the second plane crashed into the World Trade Center tower that Sept. 11, morning virtually every reporter on the scene was heard to gasp, “Oh my God!” Around our globe these recent days as the Coronavirus proved its power and our powerlessness, men and women of all nationalities instinctively cried out to that Someone beyond.
In less desperate moments we substitute Him for almost anything else, anything that makes no demands upon us. We must pray just as we must worship, and that emptiness must be filled. Be it fame, money, power, material things, bitterness of heart, or abundant good deeds, we try to fill that emptiness but in vain.
Some call this “the pursuit of happiness” — a term which recognizes this incompleteness, this emptiness as a fundamental component of the human experience.
Jesus said something like this,
“Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food… Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.” (John 6:27, The Message).
In other words, Don’t try to fill your emptiness with the perishable things of this world, pray! Speak with your Creator! He loves you, and longs for your fellowship. When you do, your emptiness will be filled, your incompleteness will disappear. You will know who you are and why you are here. You will pray rightly as you were made to pray.
Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.