Editor's note:

Some­times the small­est books are among the most pow­er­ful. Emi­lie Griffin’s Cling­ing: The Expe­ri­ence of Prayer seems to fall into this cat­e­go­ry. It is a mere 72 pages in length — but, O! the trea­sure in those pages!

This excerpt takes us right into the mid­dle of learn­ing to pray (again). Emi­lie eschews a for­mu­la­ic approach and adopts instead a rela­tion­al atti­tude: first, we must redis­cov­er exact­ly to whom we are praying.

—Renovaré Team

Excerpt from Clinging: The Experience of Prayer

To learn to pray again I had to learn to set aside both child­ish and adult mis­con­cep­tions in my image of God. I had to start again, from know­ing him to be the God who made the uni­verse, and made us, too; the God who over­looked our way­ward­ness and dis­obe­di­ence; the God who went so far as to become what we are, to take on our human­i­ty, in order to show us the real­i­ty of his design for us, our des­tiny, the over­com­ing pow­er of his love. I had to use all my cre­ative skill — a gift from him, I now remem­bered — to sketch an image in my mind of the real God, the liv­ing God who is and acts, who holds exis­tence in his hand and holds us close to him.

I had to learn to see my Sav­ior as he is: entire­ly man, entire­ly God, not one more than anoth­er, con­tra­dict­ing ratio­nal­i­ty by his real­i­ty: pour­ing him­self out for us on the cross and rais­ing us with him.

I had to learn to see my Lord act­ing in his­to­ry and time: clos­er to me than my own heart­beat and as close as that to every human being; act­ing in me and chang­ing me to bring me clos­er to my des­tiny; act­ing in oth­ers, show­ing him­self to me through them. I had to see my Lord as present here and now and, most of all, as present in my prayer.

Yah­weh is ten­der and com­pas­sion­ate,
slow to anger, most lov­ing …
he nev­er treats us, nev­er pun­ish­es us,
as our guilt and our sin deserve.

(Psalm 103:8 – 9)

But what resources were giv­en to me to do this! I had the over­flow­ing pow­er of the Scrip­tures, the rich­es of the church, God imaged in the Eucharist and in the saints. I had God’s image in holy peo­ple that I knew, in those I loved, and in the won­der of the cre­ative spir­it of human­i­ty, the mir­a­cle of thought itself, the very fact of my imag­i­na­tion tran­scend­ing place and time.

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Excerpt­ed from Cling­ing: The Expe­ri­ence of Prayer by Emi­lie Grif­fin. Eighth Day Books, Wichi­ta, KS, 2003 (p. 17).

Originally published December 2002