"Let us pray," he said, rising, and kneeled down.
It was a strange, unlikely thing to do; but he was an unlikely man, and did it. The others made haste to kneel also.
"God of justice," he said, "Thou knowest how hard it is for us, and Thou wilt be fair to us. We have seen no visions; we have never heard the voice of Thy Son, of whom those tales, so dear to us, have come down the ages; we have to fight on in much darkness of spirit and of mind, both from the ignorance we can not help, and from the fault we could have helped; we inherit blindness from the error of our fathers; and when fear, or the dread of shame, or the pains of death, come upon us, we are ready to despair, and cry out that there is no God, or, if there be, He has forgotten His children. There are times when the darkness closes about us like a wall, and Thou appearest nowhere, either in our hearts, or in the outer universe; we can not tell whether the things we seemed to do in Thy name, were not mere hypocrisies, and our very life is but a gulf of darkness. We cry aloud, and our despair is as a fire in our bones to make us cry; but to all our crying and listening, there seems neither hearing nor answer in the boundless waste. Thou who knowest Thyself God, who knowest Thyself that for which we groan, Thou whom Jesus called Father, we appeal to Thee, not as we imagine Thee, but as Thou seest Thyself, as Jesus knows Thee, to Thy very self we cry--help us, O Cause of us! O Thou from whom alone we are this weakness, through whom alone we can become strength, help us--be our Father. We ask for nothing beyond what Thy Son has told us to ask. We beg for no signs or wonders, but for Thy breath upon our souls, Thy spirit in our hearts. We pray for no cloven tongues of fire--for no mighty rousing of brain or imagination; but we do, with all our power of prayer, pray for Thy spirit; we do not even pray to know that it is given to us; let us, if so it pleases Thee, remain in doubt of the gift for years to come--but lead us thereby. Knowing ourselves only as poor and feeble, aware only of ordinary and common movements of mind and soul, may we yet be possessed by the spirit of God, led by His will in ours. For all things in a man, even those that seem to him the commonest and least uplifted, are the creation of Thy heart, and by the lowly doors of our wavering judgment, dull imagination, luke-warm love, and palsied will, Thou canst enter and glorify all. Give us patience because our hope is in Thee, not in ourselves. Work Thy will in us, and our prayers are ended. Amen."
They rose. The curate said he would call again in the evening, bade them good-by, and went. Mr. Drake turned to his daughter and said--
"Dorothy, that's not the way I have been used to pray or hear people pray; nevertheless the young man seemed to speak very straight up to God. It appears to me there was another spirit there with his. I will humble myself before the Lord. Who knows but he may lift me up!"
"What can my father mean by saying that perhaps God will lift him up?" said Dorothy to herself when she was alone. "It seems to me if I only knew God was anywhere, I should want no other lifting up. I should then be lifted up above every thing forever."
Had she said so to the curate, he would have told her that the only way to be absolutely certain of God, is to see Him as He is, and for that we must first become absolutely pure in heart. For this He is working in us, and perfection and vision will flash together. Were conviction possible without that purity and that vision, I imagine it would work evil in us, fix in their imperfection our ideas, notions, feelings, concerning God, give us for His glory the warped reflection of our cracked and spotted and rippled glass, and so turn our worship into an idolatry.' (from Paul Faber, Surgeon by George MacDonald)*
One of the most important commands Jesus ever gave is "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Why? Because our striving to do the things we ought; our thinking about the things we have not done and should do, drives us to God for help. Only on that foundation can a genuine relationship with God be built.
"The impossibility of doing what we would as we would, drives us to look for help." - George MacDonald
And what is the goal of prayer? Oneness with God (perfect harmony and intimacy).
If you are not sure about what you ought to be doing, the following might help. How do I trust God?
*Whenever I feel myself becoming anxious, or I’m tempted to whinge, or despair, my problem is I’ve been putting my faith in myself. (Sooner or later, one way or another, we all will come to the realisation that we are lost without God.) I am weak, but God is invincible. He is the greatest conceivable being, and he wishes to save me from myself.