I’m reading Richard Rohr’s The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See. Not surprisingly, Rohr spends time talking about prayer and he says some very useful thing on the subject, with a focus on the importance of prayer as something intended to deeply transform us.
One of his important reminders has to do with the intended object of change in prayer. Rohr writes
Prayer too easily becomes an attempt to change God and aggrandize ourselves instead of what it was meant to be – an interior practice to change the one who is praying, which will always happen if we stand calmly before this uncanny and utterly safe Presence, allowing the Divine Gaze to invade and heal our unconscious, the place where 95 percent of our motivations and reactions come from. All we can really do is return the gaze.
I know the truth of what Rohr says. But I also know that sometimes my prayer is precisly an effort to persuade God of something. The old debater in me comes out and I try to explain to God why God should give me something I want – ranging from the perhaps noble wish for God to grant healing for a sick friend or relative to the selfish prayer that some problem with my computer disappear. I can come up with all sorts of reasons God should do x or y.
So it is good to get the reminder now and then. It is not about God changing. It is about my transformation.
All we can really do is return the gaze.