Love: The Foundation of Prayer

Mar 15 / Kyle Norman
“How ought we pray?” Have you ever asked yourself that question? Having struggled with what words to say, or what form to use. Ever wanted to grow in prayer, but just did not know where to start. You are not alone. It can be easy to make the matter of prayer complicated and more difficult than it needs to be.

The foundation of prayer is love. This love, however, is not thin sentimentality. In Christ, God entered the fullness of humanity, thus the fullness of our humanity is what is offered in prayer. This is akin to any relationship in our lives. The love of friend, family member, or spouse invites us to articulate our struggles or hurt.

Love unlocks lament. Love allows anger and frustration. Love never hides away or masks what is uncomfortable. The same is true of our Lord. God’s love, poured into our lives, allows us to expose the unkempt and ugly parts of our spiritual lives. In love we can be confident that we reach out to the one who, in love greater than ours, receives us. Like Job and Jeremiah, we can scream and cry; like Mary and Martha we can question. None of this undercuts the root of love in prayer.

Jesus receives us as we are, not as we should be. Loving prayer, then, is built upon the truth that “we do not have a high-priest who is unable to sympathize, but one that has been tempted just as we are, yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). This assurance is not applicable only in times of blessing and thanksgiving; it is also true in the places where our prayer voices what we would otherwise hide. Love gives us the boldness needed to approach our Lord in prayer.

Without love, prayer is dry and lifeless because it is masked by whatever façade of “appropriateness” we place upon it. Without love, prayer becomes rooted in a fear that we will not be received, not be heard, not be responded to. Yet this goes against the scriptural witness. Love calls us to “pray and never give up” (Luke 18:1). John writes: “This is love, not that we love God, but God loves us” (1st John 4:10). Our prayers become awakened by the love of God in us. This then serves to awaken our love for God.

Our prayers, then, must begin in the place of receiving, and accepting, God’s love so freely bestowed. Love means we do not pray in duty; rather we pray out of a heart that yearns for Jesus. Prayer opens us up to be filled with Christ’s love. Andrew Murray asks, "How can I learn to love? I cannot learn to love until the Spirit of God fills my heart with God's love, and I begin to long for God's love.” [1]

When the love of God is poured into us, we naturally press against the danger of making prayer a ramble of empty words, or a mere technique of religiosity. Prayer becomes communion with God. Prayer becomes loving communion with God.

This is the richness of prayer that Christ invites us to explore in our lives. Thus, let us constantly, and lovingly, reach out to Christ. In bold and radical trust, let us hold before the Lord the fullness of our lives. Let us offer to Christ the tapestry of our experiences, good and bad, firm in the knowledge that his love receives us, accepts us. Let us pray fervently, pray boldly, and pray heartily.

We are invited to be formed in the presence of God through offering the deepest part of ourselves in continuous love. This is the essence of loving communion and the foundation of all prayer.

1 Murray, Andrew; ‘Absolute Surrender.” [Kobo Edition]

Kyle Norman

Reverend Dr. Kyle Norman is the Rector of the Anglican Parish of Holy Cross in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He has a doctorate in Spiritual Formation and is often asked to write or speak on the nature of Christian community, and the role of Spiritual disciplines in Christian life. His particular interest is how spiritual formation is rooted in our understanding of baptism. His personal blog can be found at