Serving as Prayer

Jesus answered, “It is written:
‘Worship the Lord your God
and serve him only.’”
Luke 4:8

When we pray, we open our hearts and minds to the God of love. Prayer allows us to experience God’s active love directly. And prayer draws us into serving this One who is love. Our service, then, becomes a form of prayer.

Unfortunately, however, not all acts of service are acts of serving the God of love. Sometimes our acts of service are driven by fears that we need to placate an angry god. Sometimes our acts of service are driven by deep shame. Some are primarily attempts to make ourselves look good or feel good about ourselves. These acts of service are really attempts to serve our own interests.

Prayer is intended to be a kind of communion with and worship of God who is Love. Prayer opens us to the flow of God’s love and grace. The experience of God’s grace changes us and changes our acts of service. Instead of serving out of fear or shame, we are freed to serve from a place of gratitude, humility and joy. Knowing we are loved, we find ourselves able more and more to act out of love for others. Because we experience deeply the grace being given to us, we are empowered to extend grace to others.

Prayer is not, then, just about our times alone with God. In solitude we encounter our own need and God’s grace in ways that prepare us and direct us to be a part of the flow of that grace to others. Henri Nouwen wrote, “In solitude we discover that our life is not a possession to be defended, but a gift to be shared.” (Henri Nouwen, Out of Solitude. Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, 1974, p 22)

The prayer that empowers our service is a joyful, humbling, deeply moving kind of prayer. In this kind of prayer, God’s grace fills us, pours out to others and comes back to bless us and fill us even more. The prayer of service is the prayer of love in action. In this sense, it could be said that Jesus’ life, which was a life of service, was a continuous prayer.

“Follow me,” Jesus calls to us. Let your life become a prayer. Give yourself to God so that God’s life can flow in you and through you to bring healing and help to others. This sacred work of service to God and to others will give back to you and will profoundly enrich your life. For “when you serve the least of these,” Jesus said, “you are serving me.”

Help my life become a life of prayer.
Teach me to give myself to you,
that I might receive your Life and Love more fully every day,
Help me to serve you in ways that make it possible
for your Life and Love
to flow freely through me to others.
In serving you alone, God,
I find the freedom to give myself humbly and gracefully to others.
Show me how you would have me serve you today.

Prayer suggestion:

As you surrender yourself and your day to God, invite God to guide you in whatever acts of service God has for you today. Keep in mind these acts may be as simple as washing the dishes or calling a friend. Or they may be acts that require courage or special grace. Whatever acts you are guided to today, may they be acts of serving the One who loves you and loves us all. Know that your acts of service are a form of prayer.