Prayer of Relinquishment

There is a beautiful section in Catherine Marshall’s book Beyond Our Selves which talks about the art of relinquishment. Although God clearly tells us all we have to do is ask and it will be given, our methods of “asking” are often very different from what we should be doing. Marshall calls our asking The Prayer of Relinquishment, which sounds very different from the somewhat chipper “ask and it will be given” that some people coughJoelOsteencoughcough like to sprout as Godly advice. Marshall says that we present a problem that we need help with and relinquish it to God, not tell him what we want done, how we want to problem solved. Instead, we open ourselves up to his response, and in faith trust him to care for us. That doesn’t mean that faith is an act of believing that God will do what we want. After all, God rarely does what we want. Instead, it is about aligning our wants with his…asking for direction.

This spirit of relinquishment isn’t such a novel idea. After all, people have talked for a long time about asking for guidance or direction. But Marshall also points out that after we put our faith in God to show us a way to do things, we need to keep our faith that he will see it through. 
Marshall talks about a woman she knew who had had a troubled life. Although she had repented and accepted God, she felt like a hypocrite for trying to lead a clean life, as if she wasn’t being true to herself. What the woman needed was continuing faith, not just that God loved her and had forgiven her, but that she was now a changed person. Her pastor advised her to “play act.” He said if she felt like she was putting on an act for everyone, then keep on doing it. Say to yourself everyday “I am going to go out and act like a Christian” even when it feels hypocritical and dishonest. Eventually, you wont need to act. Eventually, your actions will become habits. Eventually you won’t have to remind yourself not to watch certain shows on TV, or to gossip behind a friends back. Your life will reflect the changes God wants to see in you. Your past will become one of goodness and charitableness rather than sin and deceit. 
When God calls on you to do something hard, that you feel is beyond you, or not in line with what you’ve always done, play act. Tell yourself everyday what it is you’re going to do, who you’re going to be. I think this is so funny because you hear people give this kind of advice in all sorts of places. For instance, the Dog Whisperer is constantly telling dog owners, “I know you don’t feel confident around this dog, so pretend you’re a brilliant actress and ACT confident around him. He will feel your perceived confidence and behave and soon your confidence wont be an act but genuine control.” People often feel that there is this “self” inside of us who is a genuine and legitimate representation of “us.” It’s who we are. So what happens when God calls us to be who we’re not? I’m sure the story of Moses is coming to mind right now, but the brilliancy of Moses wasn’t just that God called him, it’s that he listened, that he was open to listening. 
No matter the answer to Prayers of Relinquishment, it is important to hold fast to the belief that God can and will create the change he wants to see in us. In relinquishing our own ideas about who we are and what is best for us, we can allow the best results God had in mind to appear. Our own concerns about being genuine, true to ourselves, what’s best are really invalid when it comes to a true spirit of relinquishment. Ask and it will be given, but only if you will accept it.

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