Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of January 28, 2008

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Petitionary Prayer

(Part 1 of 9 in the Inner Work Series: The Stages of Prayer)

Many of us as children asked God for help. And throughout our lives we may turn to God with very specific requests. All this asking, even from a child, requires some level of faith that God exists, that God hears our prayers, that God has the power to answer our prayers, that God loves us, and that God may choose to grant our requests. Thus, the exercise of petitionary prayer itself increases our faith, regardless of our assessment of Godís response. We feel at heart that God can stack the deck that determines what will emerge out of the ongoing uncertainty and unpredictability of our life in the natural world. The very act of asking God for help comforts us by making us feel less alone and less vulnerable.

Petitionary prayer also presumes a kind of faith in the future: that Godís Purposes affect the course of events. Yet we do not view the future as preordained, but rather as malleable and open both to our own decisions and actions as well as to Divine intervention. We feel that God can act on the future through its inherent uncertainty and through us. However, implicit in petitioning God is acceptance of the possibility that God may not grant our request. That acceptance, in the face of the Infinite, aligns our will with Godís, even as we beg God to align with our petition.

Of course acceptance does not imply resignation; otherwise we would not even bother praying. The old saying, ďthe Lord helps those who help themselves,Ē contains a truth. If we pray for something over which we have some control or influence, then we must do our part and not just depend on it all being done for us by God. We need to be responsible, inwardly and outwardly, thereby joining our will to Godís Will in creating the brighter future. Thus petitionary prayer, in cases where there is something we can do about the object of our prayer, is a method of offering our will in service to Godís Will, should God agree to support our request.

We feel that the degree of our earnestness and the depth of our need directly affect the height to which our prayer penetrates and the extent to which it is heard. Should we expect God to care more than we do?

Any practice of prayer gradually weakens our egoistic self-centeredness. Within the spectrum of petitionary prayer, we may move in the direction of selflessness, from petitioning for our personal, material benefit, to asking for forgiveness, to expressing our gratitude, to asking God to intercede on someone elseís behalf, to asking God to bring us near, to asking to be allowed to serve well, to offering God our love.

For this week, renew your practice of petitionary prayer.


     

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