There are two basic kinds of prayer. The first kind of prayer — the one most commonly understood and practiced — is when you are asking for what you want; when you are temporarily filled with — and renewed by — both the self making that request and the anticipation of what is requested. This is the only kind of prayer that most men and women ever know — when you ask from yourself for something for yourself. 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 kind of prayer, the person praying knows what he or she wants, as well as how that prayer ought to be happily answered.
But there is another kind of prayer. A special form of invocation exists that is virtually unknown in these days of ever-increasing ignorance of ourselves. This secret prayer is when you ask God to be in charge of your life without telling how. 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. For instance, you might say silently in your heart: “Please, Almighty . . . show me what I need to see about myself.” Or perhaps, “Blessed Mother . . . I’m so weary with all that I know to ask for. Please teach me, whatever the cost, to learn how to ask for something new.”
Briefly summarizing the difference between these two distinct types of prayer, the first one is where you are in charge of what you think you must have to be happy. Here you are trying to light your own way, struggling daily to straighten out the darkened and crooked places in your life that lay both ahead of and behind you.
The second kind of prayer is the one critical for real self-renewal. With this prayer 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. In this prayer you’re not looking for anything for yourself outside of asking God to remove the veils from your eyes.
The whole of your new wish, this change in how you want to consciously change the way you’ve been approaching your life, is your agreement to discontinue yourself. 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.