Receiving as Prayer

Every good and perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights
who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17

This text reveals some remarkable truths about God. God is the Giver of every good and perfect gift. And God is the “Father of heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows.” These images are powerful, beautiful, surprising, stunning.

God is the Giver of all that is good. God gives. We receive. This is the structure of reality. Our life, our breath, everything we have, we have received from God.

A vital part of what it means to pray is not only to express our needs to God, but to actively receive God’s good gifts.

It turns out that this is not so easy. What comes naturally to a young child being cared for by loving parents does not come naturally to us in our relationship with God. For one thing, we often get confused in our thinking and try to turn the structure of the universe upside down. We imagine that God needs us to give and give and do and do. We imagine that it is not us, but God, who needs to do all the receiving.

Perhaps our thinking about this becomes confused because of fear. Some of us live with the fear that God does not really love or value us. This fear blocks our capacity to receive the good gifts God gives. Some of us may have difficulty receiving from God because we fear that we do not deserve good things–not spiritually, relationally or materially. Or we may fear that, rather than being the Giver of all that is good, God instead is cruel and unkind. Fears and distortions about ourselves and about God make it difficult for us to freely receive the good gifts God gives.

But God does not waver. God keeps giving all that is good. And all the time that God is pouring out good gifts into our lives God is also working to free us from the fears that block our ability to receive. Writer and theologian George MacDonald describes it like this:

There are good things God must delay giving, until his child has a pocket to hold them–until God gets his child to make that pocket. God must first make him fit to receive and to have. There is no part of our nature that shall not be satisfied–and that not by lessening it, but by enlarging it to embrace an ever-enlarging enough. (George MacDonald, Discovering the Character of God compiled by Michael R. Phillips [ Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers 1989], p. 156).

God not only offers us good gifts. God also helps us to grow in our capacity to receive these gifts. Prayer is receiving good gifts from God who is the Giver of all that is good. Prayer is also the process by which God helps us increase our capacity to receive these gifts.

May God grant us the grace to make pockets to hold God’s good gifts. May we receive more and more of all that God desires to give.

You are the Giver of every good gift.
You are the Love behind every good gift.
The air I breathe, the food I eat,
the shelter where I rest and work,
the companionship I enjoy,
the hope that comes,
the peace that protects,
the joy that surprises.
You give and give and give.
You are the Giver of every good gift.
I receive and receive again from your loving hand.
Open my eyes,
open my heart,
open my hands,
to receive all your good gifts.

Prayer suggestion:

List some of the many good gifts you are being given. Picture these gifts falling gently down to you, poured out by God who loves you. Open your hands and heart to receive all you are being given.

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