Answering God (Part 2): Prayer as Death

In my last post, I wrote about how prayer is answering God, because he is the one who has spoken to us first and prayer must begin with listening rather than talking.

We've spent tons of energy, time, and money on constructing a false identity that exists to cover up our pain.  Other writers have called it "the false self," the "shadow mission," or "the imposter."  This is the person we pretend to be around other people in order to impress them, and in order to get the love and approval that we feel so deficient in. Its the carefully evaluated and calculated image we work hard to show the world.

For many of us, its "false selves," because we try on different personalities like we try on clothes or shoes.  Not only do we do this with people, but we do it with God, praying what we think ought to be in us, rather than what is actually in us, and so much of what we say to God in prayer is said by the false self...

Prayer as answering God, then, means a listening and getting quiet that kills the false identities we've built for ourselves.  The false self, the imposter, hates silence, because in the silence she discovers herself to be nothing.  He clambers for the limelight, for attention, for external stimulus that feeds his ego, and so in the silence, he senses himself beginning to disappear.  Everything in us fights the death of the false self, because we have relied on him for so long as a crutch, a bandaid that hides the pain of our past.

The false self needs emotional experiences, ecstatic moments, constant stimulation.  He is constantly frustrated at his fear of feeling unknown by anyone, so he overcompensates and uses everyone to fill his cavernous cry for affirmation.

It is only in the silence that God can begin to rip off the bandaid.  In silence, the long covered true self, created by and loved by God, begins to surface.  It is certainly a painful journey, into the silence and the darkness, but as the Psalmist writes "even the darkness will not be dark to you, and the night will shine like the day, for dark is as light to you" (Psalm 139:12). Our true selves, broken, wounded, and imperfect, are seen, known, and loved by God.  Our false selves are entirely unknown to God.

We need to stop clambering for God's approval and stop pretending before God and others.  We need to realize that prayer is practicing on being with God fully and giving Him space to expose the imposter for what she is.

It begins with admitting that something needs to die, because whatever is denied cannot be healed.

It begins with realizing that the person we are pretending to be is largely unknown by others, ourselves, and God.

It begins with getting quiet and letting the screams of the imposter fade, only to be replaced by the healing presence and surprising peace of the God who sees us all the way to the bottom.

It begins with embracing prayer as the death of the false self which can only happen in silence.