Two Ways to Live, Two Ways to Pray
In his book Desiring God’s Will: Aligning Your Heart with the Heart of God, David Benner writes,
When it comes right down to it, there are really only two possible prayers that can be prayed. One is entirely natural, one is absolutely supernatural. Whether we choose to pray or not, one of these will be praying itself. The choice is not whether to pray. The choice is which prayer to pray.
The prayer that comes most naturally for all of us is “My name be hallowed, my kingdom come, my will be done.” This is a prayer of independence and willfulness. It is the liturgy of the kingdom of self. The prayer that goes against our nature and that can become our prayer only through the action of divine grace is the Lord’s Prayer. It inverts everything in the liturgy of the kingdom of the self—“Thy name be hallowed, thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” It is a prayer of surrendered autonomy and willingness. It is the liturgy of the kingdom of God.
As I read about the ongoing conflict of Jacob and Laban in Genesis 30, I am struck by how they both are operating under the kingdom of self. They are both clinging to their own agendas, possessions, and strategies for their own futures. The story almost seems a little over the top, but then I think of all the ways I do the same things. It looks different, but it’s really not. We all feel anxiety about the future. We as human beings want a secure and safe future for ourselves and the ones we love, and the ways we seek to acquire that may include hard work, savings, stocks, education, providing opportunities for our children, healthy eating and exercise. These are not bad—in fact, they are good, wise practices. But we can become so attached to our own way of securing our future that we fail to trust God with this present moment. It is very easy to move from willingly cooperating with God to taking control and willfully managing our lives and our futures in our own human striving.
I’m seeking to pay more attention to whether my reactions reflect a rigid, willful maneuvering to clutch or cling to my life, my agenda, or my possessions. Or whether I have a more open, spacious and flexible willingness to recognize and respond to the way God is working in the world, in others, and in me. I confess that the former is my more natural inclination, but by God’s grace and with some intentionality and practice I will be able to live what I pray: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”