I have a challenge for you this week. Really listen to each person who leads you in prayer, not just on Sundays during a worship service but anytime anyone prays whether opening a meeting, over lunch, or because someone is in need. Listen for the grace.
While you are at it, listen to your own prayers. Survey them for grace. J.I. Packer asks: “Do you claim to know the love and grace of God in your own life? Prove your claim, then, by going and praying likewise.” Prayers reveal if we know the love and grace of God.
I know I fail to recognize the reality of grace in my daily life. I cheapen grace by overlooking my own personal sins and those of people who sin like me. I distance myself from God when I use prayer as a social custom to open or close a meeting rather than address Him in humility and recognize the goodness of God’s grace that allows me to talk to Him through prayer.
I ignore grace when I wake up each morning demanding that the day give me all the air I need to breathe, hot water for my shower and coffee brewed to just the right temperature without one thought acknowledging the grace of God provided in each of these gifts. I may not even notice my lack of grace when I assume the person who cut me off on the way to work is just being a jerk rather than considering the reality that I don’t own the part of the road he pushed his way into. I live with little aptitude towards grace.
Paul, on the other hand, seemed as aware of the grace of God as John Newton, who wrote the most famous hymn in the world—Amazing Grace. Paul said it so truthfully in I Corinthians 15:10: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them —yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”
So how do prayers sound if they are coming from a place of grace? First of all they show more than what we think of as due respect to God. They reveal that you need His grace to even attempt to think of Him. Jesus gave us a few pointers for using our minds, hearts and spirits when praying. He told us to pray to God as Our Father. There is huge grace displayed right there. Addressing God as our Father recognizes His irrational love for us from the heart of a good Father to a child. He also told us to pray to God recognizing the grace of hallowing His name. It is the goodness and grace of God that invites us to call Him by name. Praying with grace is not about repeating certain words, even if Jesus taught them to us. Praying with grace is opening your heart, mind and spirit to the meaning of these words.
Julian of Norwich said: “For we are so preciously loved by God that we cannot even comprehend it. No created being can ever know how much and how sweetly and tenderly God loves them. It is only with the help of grace that we are able to persevere in spiritual contemplation with endless wonder at his high, surpassing, immeasurable love which our Lord in his goodness has for us.”
For one week, refuse to pray unless you are starting from a place of relying on the grace of God. Learn to truly say grace with grace.