In those times when we're busy dreaming up the next plan, the next love, the next thrill, aren't we really looking for a way to renew ourselves? Most of us experience "renewal" when some idea or a hope that we have gets fulfilled, filling us in turn with a sense of excitement; and then, in that feeling of being full of ourselves, comes a certain kind of pleasure that we take as being the same as renewal in this life. But there's a problem with this sense of renewal, isn't there? As fast as it pours in, it pours out! In fact, no matter how much "good fortune" the world pours into us, there remains an emptiness. Here's the reason behind this truth.
Our souls are not enlarged through circumstance. As a matter of fact, circumstantial experiences grant us but a temporary sense of being "new" or "going forward." More often than not, they unconsciously limit us because we live in fear that we're going to lose them, resulting in no real renewal at all. The little-understood secret of life is that everything we add to our cup to make ourselves greater becomes the very thing that makes us less.
We're looking to our own best ideas, to those well-preserved images from our own past experiences to guide us to something new, but the word new means nothing was before it. Our present knowledge of life and self doesn't understand this kind of new. For us "new" is how we look after dieting or plastic surgery, the next series in the line of cars we'd like to drive... if this sounds shallow, it is! Our spiritual lives have been so starved of Reality's nourishing inflow that almost all of what we now think of as being "new" is little more than an unconscious continuation of some reconfigured past experience. What we're looking for, unconsciously, is that familiar sense of self-renewal that comes with finding something similar to what we already knew, even though it has never fulfilled us before.
Before something genuinely new can appear in our lives, something old must pass. There must be a discontinuation of our familiar sense of self from which we look out into our world in order to find something we believe will renew us.
Real prayer, the soul-transforming kind, is self-discontinuity. It is a conscious act of self-suspension arising from the wish for something new to occur, an act of higher understanding born from knowing that being wrapped up in the old can only produce more of the old.
The kind of prayer most commonly understood and practiced however is something quite different: asking for what you want and being temporarily filled with -- and renewed by -- both the self making that request and the anticipation of what is requested. Examples of this kind of prayer are as easy to produce as listening to your own thoughts tell you why you're unhappy with your life: "Please send me some money." "Please straighten out my problem." "Please arrange a happy ending for me." In this type of prayer, you are in charge of what you think you must have to be happy. However, if you try to establish a relationship with God based on your ideas of God and your ideas of you, you will get what you asked for, but you won't be renewed. It will be the renewal that you have to renew again and again.
There is another kind of prayer, one critical for real self-renewal, and this secret prayer is where you ask God to be in charge of your life -- to give you not what you think you want, but what He knows you need in order to enlarge your relationship with Him. This powerful kind of prayer begins with learning to ask the Almighty to help you help yourself see the truth about your life, even while knowing it will most likely reveal something about you that you don't want to see.
This new willingness on your part for God's will to supplant your own invites His Life to pour into yours. In comes the water that renews your life. You find yourself more alive than when you were struggling to give yourself the life you hoped for. You find yourself newly alive.