Years ago, I was captivated by A Man Called Peter, the story of Peter Marshall, the former chaplain to the Senate, as told by his wife, Catherine Marshall. But it was Catherine herself that really drew my attention. She had experiences with God that made me long for more than what my "camp" of Christianity had systematized. So I began to read everything I could find about that fascinating woman. And I searched for her writings, which at that time were few and far between...or so I thought. Though I couldn't seem to find much (that was before internet), I started to piece writings together and grew to love how she responded to the Spirit of God.
But recently I discovered an article in Guideposts magazine. Apparently, Catherine had been one of that magazine's regular writers. So for the next several days, I would like to re-post her classic article, entitled "The Prayer of Relinquishment."
Catherine's treatment of this subject gives another outcome from the previous post...but it is still at heart the same -- total submission of our self-will to the good and sovereign God who is also our loving Father. He is worthy of no less!
Catherine in her own words:
Like most people, when I first began active experimentation with prayer, I was full of questions, such as: Why are some agonizingly sincere prayers granted, while others are not? I still have questions. Mysteries about prayer are always ahead of present knowledge—luring, beckoning on to further experimentation.
But one thing I do know; I learned it through hard experience. It’s a way of prayer that has resulted consistently in a glorious answer, glorious because each time, power beyond human reckoning has been released. This is the Prayer of Relinquishment.
I got my first glimpse of it in the fall of 1943. I had been ill for six months with a lung infection, and a bevy of specialists seemed unable to help. Persistent prayer, using all the faith I could muster, had resulted in—nothing. I was still in bed full-time.
One afternoon I read the story of a missionary who had been an invalid for eight years. Constantly she had prayed that God would make her well, so that she might do his work. Finally, worn out with futile petition, she prayed, All right. I give up. If you want me to be an invalid, that’s your business. Anyway, I want you even more than I want health. You decide. In two weeks the woman was out of bed, completely well.
This made no sense, yet the story would not leave me. On the morning of September 14—how can I ever forget the date?—I came to the same point of abject acceptance. I’m tired of asking, was the burden of my prayer. I’m beaten. God, you decide what you want for me. Tears flowed. I had no faith as I understood faith, expected nothing. The gift of my sick self was made with no trace of graciousness.
And the result? It was as if I had touched a button that opened windows in heaven; as if some dynamo of heavenly power began flowing. Within a few hours I had experienced the presence of the Living Christ in a way that wiped away doubt and revolutionized my life. From that moment my recovery began.
Through this incident, God was trying to teach me something important about prayer. Gradually, I saw that a demanding spirit, with self-will as its rudder, blocks prayer. I understood that the reason for this is that God absolutely refuses to violate our free will; that, therefore, unless self-will is voluntarily given up, even God cannot move to answer prayer...
Come back tomorrow for the remainder of this article. Until then, the question:
What am I demanding of God, thinking wrongfully that it may be "faith"? What am I holding back?