Over the years, I have enjoyed many wonderful discussions about prayer. Often the question comes up of whether we should pray specifically or generally. For example, should we pray for a specific outcome, such as healing? Or should we simply submit to God’s will and express our trust in God’s care? These are excellent and thought-provoking discussions. Recently, in the course of a couple days, I read two prayers that seemed to beautifully present these contrasts.
May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we will live deeply in our hearts.
May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people and the earth, so that we will work for justice, equality, and peace.
May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer, so that we will reach out our hands to comfort them and change their pain to joy.
And may God bless us with the foolishness to think that we can make a difference in our world, so that we will do the things which others say cannot be done. Amen
~A Franciscan Prayer
The above beautiful prayer asks for God to take action to move and inspire us to in turn take action ourselves. And it is pretty specific in its requests.
In contrast, the prayer below is a prayer of complete surrender; abandoning one’s own will to God’s will.
Father, I abandon myself into Your hands; do with me what you will. Whatever You may do, I thank you; I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only Your will be done in my, and in all your creatures – I wish no more than this, O Lord.
~Charles de Foucald, 18th century soldier, explorer, and monk.
So is one of these prayers the “right” way to pray, and the other “wrong”? My experience is that they are both right, depending on the situation. Sometimes when visiting with someone who is sick or entering cancer treatment we have prayed very specifically for certain things to happen. It has felt like the exactly right prayer for that time and the person received the comfort of the Holy Spirit and God has many times answered these prayers.
At other times, when I am feeling lost and confused and don’t know what to do, I have prayed in the manner of the second prayer, simply surrendering my will to God’s will. This has been such an important prayer for me at these times. It has gotten ME out of the way and put my focus on God’s will rather than my own.
What do you think? Is it better to pray specifically or generally? To express your will to God or to surrender your will to God? Is there on “right” way to pray? Would love to hear your thoughts.