Just imagine how different your life would be if moment by moment you were constantly open to God. Think of how much your experience of yourself, others and the world would change if you were continuously attuned to the loving presence of God, allowing the life of God to flow into and through you.
Most of us live somewhere between the extremes of being completely open to God and completely closed. This is why I speak of opening. Opening implies not just a position but a direction – a direction of movement toward full openness. It recognizes that openness is far from our natural posture – in relation to God or anyone else. The natural posture of most of us is guardedness and pretense. The invitation to loving encounter with God is an invitation to come in faith that expresses itself in vulnerability and brutal self-honesty.
Too often faith is reduced to beliefs. But cognitive assent to propositions has very little to do with genuine faith. Genuine faith is more a posture of the heart than of the mind. Faith in God is leaning with confidence into God. The opposite of faith is mistrust, not unbelief. Faith is trust in God’s goodness. This and this alone is what makes it possible for us to approach God with openness.
Prayer is the encounter of the true self and the true God. Sadly, however, the self that we so often bring to God is our lying, false self – the self that we have defensively constructed to protect us from the vulnerability of our nakedness before God and in the world. God understands this vulnerability and our felt need for protection, but Jesus shows us another way to be in vulnerability and trust. This is the way of prayer. It was not simply what Jesus did when he addressed the one he called Father. It was the posture of his life as he offered his life as a prayer.
In prayer we speak from the hiddenness of our heart to the hiddenness of the heart of God. This secret place is where we find our true faces. In honesty before God we discover our voice and our true identity. But we must start where we actually are.
Honesty before God is not simply avoiding lies. It is bringing our full self to God. Rather than trying to fix things up before turning to God, genuine prayer is turning to God in the midst of the mess that is the reality of our inner world. It is turning to God in the midst of our confusion and doubt, our anger, our hopes, our fears, our fantasies, our pain, our coping, our defenses, our struggles, our sin, and our brokenness. There is no cure for that which most deeply ails us unless we come to God with nothing held back. However the good news is that every genuine presence of self before the face of God is prayer. In prayer we can say anything, in any way, as long as it is honest – or more accurately, as long it is as honest as, in that moment, we can be.
When we speak the truths of our lives in prayer, whatever they are and however we are moved to speak them, we are stripped bare of the multitude of deceits that infiltrate our being. Dare to stand before the naked God in your own nakedness and you will be changed – stripped and scourged but healed, awakened and made whole.
Adapted from Opening to God: Lectio Divina and Life as Prayer
(InterVarsity Press, 2010)