A meditation on the meaning of prayer

“Who are You, Lord? And who am I?”

-St. Francis of Assisi

Who are You, Lord? And who am I?

This quote by St. Francis is a question that lies at the heart of the spiritual life. It is the question that comes with every breath. It is the question that accompanies every beat of our hearts. It is the question that forms the center of our very beings.

Who are You, Lord? And who am I?

We were made to know God and be known by Him. For this we were made, and nothing more. Or rather, for this we were made, and nothing less.

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t spent very much time considering this question. For most of my life I have been too concerned with what I need to do to think about who I am, much less to contemplate the question of Who He is. My prayer has been little more than lip service, as I come into my holy hours not to be with the Love of my life but to get from Him what I need. Life is too busy. There’s too much going on. I have so many other questions I need answered, and so many more problems to solve. How can I possibly spend time thinking about this?

And yet, I hear in the silence of my heart the aching of this same question:

Who are You, Lord? And who am I?

Do you hear it too?

In the past few weeks I decided to start engaging this question. I have been coming to prayer with it, and in my time with Him I have begun to read His Word simply to hear His response. And as I ask to know Him and be known by Him, as I read the Word simply because I want to know more about the God I love, it’s like I am seeing the scriptures transformed before my eyes. What once was pale and lifeless becomes vibrant and alive in my hands. I read the passages of God’s power and might, and in my heart I actually start to believe Him. I read about His people, and I can feel His Heart for them. Every sentence, every word breathes the very life of God. When I ask the Lord to reveal to me Who He is in His scriptures, and I allow this to be the purpose and aim of my time with Him, He is able to show me His Heart in a new and unprecedented way.

And what’s more, in the quiet of my heart, in that still and silent contemplation that only comes with knowing you are in the presence of a friend, I can start to know myself. My hopes and dreams, my fears and doubts, the very essence of who I am, can be revealed in the quiet and safety of His presence and His gaze.

Friends, I am so convicted that this is the center of our story. I am convinced that this is the aim of all our life, and the goal of all our prayer. When we come before the Lord in prayer, this needs to be the question on our lips and the aching in our hearts. We must come in order to know Him, and we must come to know ourselves.

And what answers He has in store for us! What we will discover if only we’d turn to look! When we come to prayer with this lens, and encounter Him in this light, we cannot help but be astounded. I have seen it for myself.

And all those other questions? Those thoughts and worries about the everyday trials of our lives? They will find their answer too, under the light of His glory.

Friends, He is calling to us. He is begging us to know Him, aching for us to know His Heart. He looks upon us with eyes of longing as He yearns to show us to ourselves. Will we only put aside our questions and to-do’s, will we only put away the demands of our life to ask the one question that matters, and let Him breathe into us His answer?

Who are You, Lord? And who am I?