The foundation of prayer is love, so to grow closer to God through prayer will also – by its very nature – bring me closer to other people. The metaphor suggested in this idea is a circle, with God at the center and me at the edge. In prayer, with heart directed toward God, I work out my salvation in a life of prayer that draws me ever closer to the center and ever closer to others.
During my junior year in high school, I found that the more time I spent in prayer, the more sensitive I became to the needs of others: alcoholism, neglect, loneliness, depression, desperation. And even though I was overwhelmed by the need, it was a measure of need that previously had been invisible to me. Prayer was creating in me a measure of empathy.
That summer, during a trip to my grandparents’ home, I felt God challenging me to reconsider my path: would I continue to seek a future in the public eye (politics) or would I be willing to set aside what I wanted (wealth and influence) in order to serve others? It felt like a calling. I struggled – in prayer – over what kind of a life I should lead, over what kind of a person God was creating me to be.
During that process, many others joined me in praying for clarity (and for strength to choose well). Today, nearly two decades later, I have trouble remembering why it was such a hard choice, why it felt like I had so much to lose. In this process of prayer – in this daily practice of moving closer and closer to the center – I’ve found both clarity and community. And I can’t even begin to imagine going back.
Prayer was creating in me a measure of empathy.