Man's Difficulty Concerning Prayer

—and not to faint.

— St. Luke 18:1

A divine perfection that were indeed, where was no liberty! If but for himself, God might well desire no change, but he is God for the sake of his growing creatures; all his making and doing is for them, and change is the necessity of their very existence. They need a mighty law of liberty, into which shall never intrude one atom of chance. Is the one idea of creation the begetting of a free, grand, divine will in us? And shall that will, praying with the will of the Father, find itself manacled by foregone laws? No man is so tied by divine law that he can nowise modify his work: shall God not modify his? Law is the slave of Life. If you say, he has made things to go, set them going, and left them—then I say, If his machine interfered with his answering the prayer of a single child, he would sweep it from him—not to bring back chaos, but to make room for his child. If you say, There can be but one perfect way, I answer, Yet the perfect way to bring a thing so far, to a certain crisis, can ill be the perfect way to carry it on after that crisis: the plan will have to change then. God is not occupied with a grand toy of worlds and suns, of forces and waves; these but constitute a portion of his workshops and tools, for the bringing out of righteous men and women to fill his house of love. Would he have let his Son die for a law of nature, as we call it? These doubtless are the outcome of willed laws of his own being; but they take their relations in matter only for the sake of the birth of sons and daughters, that they may yet again be born from above.

Commentary

by Jess Lederman

I present some thoughts on prayer that I believe George MacDonald would appreciate. 

Our aim in the life of prayer is not to gain feelings or "sensible" experiences of any particular kind, but simply and solely to conform our will to God's. "I seek not what is yours but you," says St. Paul to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 12:14); and we say the same to God. We seek not the gifts but the Giver. 
--The Orthodox Way, by Bishop Kallistos Ware

Pray simply. Do not expect to find in your heart any remarkable gift of prayer. Consider yourself unworthy of it. Then you will find peace. Use the empty, cold dryness of your prayer as food for your humility.
--St. Makarii of Optino

It is not so true that "Prayer changes things" as that prayer changes us, and then we change things. Consequently we must not ask God to do what He has created us to do. For instance, Jesus Christ is not a social reformer; He came to alter us first, and if there is any social reform to be done on earth, we must do it...Remember, what makes prayer easy is not our wits or our understanding, but the tremendous agony of God in redemption. A thing is worth just what it costs. Prayer is not what it costs us, but what it cost God to enable us to pray. It cost God so much that a little child can pray. It cost God almighty so much that anyone can pray. 
--If You Will Ask, by Oswald Chambers