I first began to understand something about the spirit of prayer (and the unfortunate lack of that spirit) when I learned of the relative connection between self-knowledge and God-knowledgebetween self-honesty and God-honesty. The fact is: if we are lying to ourselves then we are lying to God.
How can a man lie to himself and to God? It's not a simple matter of devising a spiel and rattling it off as a con-man does when he goes out on the street to sell shares in the Brooklyn Bridge or some such obvious mischief. Self-deceit is more a matter of wearing a maskan invisible soul-mask worn on the inside, so that it fools not only others but also, and especially, the person wearing it. Even as he tries to look at himself honestly he can't perceive the mask because he thinks it is his true face. So he stands before God, not only at "prayer time" but at all times, not as himself but as another person, a fictional person and he doesn't even have to take thought about it; it's automatic.
Now let me back up a little by saying that, even though we fool ourselves and love to have it so, most of us are aware of it; deep down in the depths of the heart, below the conscious controlled thoughts we know we are divided. There are those times when we will acknowledge our true statethose rare times when we feel the unconditional love of a trusted friend and we find ourselves enabled to admit that we are divided souls: weak and needy, wretched creatures on the inside, with nothing on the outside but the façade of a "poser", as John Eldredge effectively described the insidious false self in his memorable book, Wild at Heart.
Now reader, I find that, in expounding upon the inward enemy of the spirit of prayer, I have touched upon the beginnings of the defeat of this enemy. The defeat of self-deceit is by love. It was the real caring of my friend that melted my mask and freed me, even if it was only momentary and temporary I dropped the mask in the presence of love. I spontaneously received my friend's love and I found myself receiving myself alsobecoming honest and unified. Now, that spirit of human friendship is wonderful, but compared to the relationship to the eternal God it is small and narrow while the relationship offered in God is deep and wide, high and holy.
In the presence of God the Father, His Son our Savior and the Holy Spirit within us we are loved as we never dared to hope we would be loved. Of course we cannot receive the full measure at one time but the spirit of prayer includes the process of becoming more and more able to receive that love. You see, if we are loved but do not receive that love it does not effect us, except maybe to harden our hearts. But if we receive that love, as much as we are able at any particular time, our masks of self-directed and other-directed deceit begin to melt away and lose the aura of reality. It is a process that goes on for the rest of our lives, never ending until we leave this life and go to be eternally with the Lord. At which time, as the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known."
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And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born.
What we offer is drawn from us by what He offers. Our self-oblation stands on His; and the spirit of prayer flows from the gift of the Holy Ghost, the great Intercessor.
Peter Taylor Forsyth