Ryan talks about the concept of Yielding in Prayer and how this can be difficult but will truly bring you joy, happiness, peace and strength in your relationship with the Lord.
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Printable Study Guide PDF
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Reflective Study Guide Questions
“[Y]our kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”Mt. 6:10
- Ryan asks us to consider whether it is difficult or easy it is for us to desire God’s will to be done in our lives. Do you ever find it difficult to surrender yourself to God’s will in your life? How can you work on growing in openness to God’s will?
- Sometimes we might struggle to understand what God’s will is for our lives, and we even might begin to feel distant from Him. Do you ever struggle with feeling distant from God? How can you work on persevering through such feelings of distance?
- To yield to someone means to give them the right of way. Yielding to God in prayer means that we give Him permission to act first in our lives. In what areas of your life might you most need to give God permission to work?
- There can be many times in our lives when we feel frustrated and even need to express our frustration to God in prayer. But even when we do tell God of our frustrations, we can still end our time of prayer in a posture of surrender and receptivity. How might surrendering more fully influence your relationship with God?
This is Ryan O’Hara on the fourth of four talks for the Pray More Retreat and this talk is entitled “Yield.”
Let’s pray in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God, I pray that you would give us the gift of saying yes to you, the gift of deferring to you in our lives and the gift of making space for more of what you want to allow you to take the lead and for us to follow. We love you, Lord, we trust you and pray that you would increase this particular grace during this retreat and beyond. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
How Eager Are You?
So, like we did last time, let’s start with a question. How eager are you to say to God and mean it, your will be done? How eager are you to really get those words out and like totally mean it, like really mean it? “God, may your will be done.” Because if we’re honest, there’s a lot of baggage or kind of questions that surround this whole question of God’s will. Is it something that I can know? Is it going to be hard to do? What if I know what God’s will is, but I don’t want to do it? There’s a lot of different sort of concerns we have about it and these are totally legitimate because let’s be honest, there’s great mystery around the plan of God. How does it all come together? I trust that from His perspective, from God’s perspective, He can see how it all fits together, but certainly not from mine. And I don’t know how this situation matches up with this, so, it’s a great mystery.
It also seems like it can be quite difficult to know what is part of God’s plan and what isn’t, because it seems like in the spiritual life, just because something is hard doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s bad. And again, there’s just a lot of questions of discernment and trust. And so yeah, it’s hard. I think sometimes it’d be easier to not really pray and be open to whatever God’s will is for you and for me because it’s too hard to nail down. It’s too hard to feel like we’re getting it right. And so maybe we start to just avoid the subject altogether and then we start to think, well, maybe there really isn’t a plan, or maybe there really isn’t a way that God would want to direct my life. And so we start to fade away and God becomes a little more distant and we’re not so sure. And so all of this is happening when I ask you the question, how eager are you to say to God and really mean it, “your will be done, I want whatever you want, God.”? It’s hard to say.
A Take on Yield
And so, with this particular part of the pray method, we found that we’ve praised God for who He is and thanked Him for what He’s done. We’ve repented of our sins, and we’ve asked God for various things, both in our life and in the lives of others. And then we turn to the final step in the method, that of yield. Where it’s time to limit our words and really try to listen and be attentive to God. And just like we think it’s crucial that God gets the first word and that we would read the scriptures and then respond, we also want God to have the final word and to really be the one that draws us to himself as we close in prayer.
And so, this sort of finishes out the pray method with yield because what I’m proposing is that there would be time, at the end of our prayer time that we would regularly open ourselves up to this opportunity to say yes to Jesus and to a more peace filled and trust filled surrender to God.
Wouldn’t that be amazing if each and every day of our life, we had just a little moment of surrender to what God wants and we’ll talk about what that can look like. So first it’s helpful to note what yield is and what yield isn’t, and there’s really no sort of formal definition, but what I’m describing by yield isn’t necessarily all silence or all contemplation or the kind of prayer where there’s no thought or no action. It’s a bit more active than that. It’s words like receptive, attentive, and surrender.
And so, there’s something that’s active. And yet when it comes to the word yield, what we see in that word is when we yield to someone else at a yield sign, it means we’re giving someone else the right of way. We’re deferring to someone else and that someone else has got himself and particularly in the person of the Holy Spirit that we want to yield to what the Holy Spirit is stirring up in our prayer time and how the Holy Spirit might lead us forward. We give the Holy Spirit permission to go first and then for us to follow Jesus in that particular way. And so it’s going to look more like receptivity, attentiveness and surrender. Let’s take a look at each one of those words.
So, this yield part of the pray method is receptive. And again, this is where we’ve heard God’s word, we’ve reflected on it. We’ve prayed, we’ve repented, we’ve asked, and then it’s time to receive and to get quiet and to welcome what God may want to speak to us. Up to this point, there’s been a lot of our words, but this is a chance to get quiet and to receive what God might impress upon our minds and our hearts. And even just to be quiet in such a way, even an open posture with our hands like this can signal a receptivity to what it is that God wants. So first it’s receptive.
Second, it’s attentive. And what this is is there’s an anticipation. There’s an expectation that God would speak. And again, God is faithful in speaking to us in His word and we ask God, and we’re attentive to the way in which God might speak to us. Now I’m not suggesting that God will speak audibly like you’re able to hear me or someone else in conversation, but there’s many different ways that God can impress an idea, a thought or a sense of His presence that goes beyond words. And so it’s attentive to how God might speak to us. So again, there’s an activity there that we’re alert to how God might speak.
So, we’re waiting, we’re receptive, we’re attentive. And finally, we want to carry a posture of surrender that we want to move towards an opening of ourselves and our whole lives to God and a willingness just to say a simple and sincere yes. Wouldn’t it be beautiful if every day, our prayer ended with just a simple affirmation? Yes, yes, Jesus, yes. I trust in you, a simple affirmation.
Now the truth is some days, we’re not going to get there. Some days we get distracted. Some days we don’t want to say yes. Some days we just want to want to say yes, and to want what God wants is what God wants. And so that’s a great starting point. If you just want what God wants, I want to want what God wants, that is a really powerful step and that might be where you are a good amount of the time. I just want to want what you want God. That’s a mouthful, isn’t it?
And so, He honors that. He honors that desire for wanting what He wants for us, and He’ll meet us even there. And to be honest, He’s going to meet you even in the place where you say ‘you know God, I don’t want what you want right now. I’m kind of closed off. I’m kind of scared or frustrated or angry.’ And this is another really important step.
So, as we approach this yield moment, that space of quiet, perhaps it stirs up some negative emotions as well. And I’d encourage you to respond to that, to speak up, and to talk to God about that. And then when you’ve done that, when you’ve been honest, when you’ve been forthright, maybe you’ve even raised your voice, He’s strong enough to handle it. I’d encourage you after that again to go back into a posture of receptivity and of attentiveness and of moving towards a surrender, even in speaking out that frustration, that’s posturing towards surrender. That honesty can be really, really powerful. Again, God is then given a chance to speak a message of hope and of love and of His presence and His provision, His love for you into that kind of moment. And so that’s how we see this playing out in the pray method. It’s receptive, it’s attentive and it moves us towards a surrender.
There’s Something at Stake
And so we see it again, there’s something that’s at stake here, there’s something that’s at stake. And I think it’s a lot of times we think of this part surrender as obedience and detachment and kind of saying no to ourselves. I think a lot of times these are kind of hard or difficult things to grab onto, but as much as it might require denying yourself, it may require a real act of obedience. It may require a real amending of your life, but hopefully we’re starting to deal with that in repentance and deal with that in confession. And we’re beginning to move the ship around, but what’s on the other side of moving towards obedience and detachment and of saying no to ourselves so we can say yes to God. What’s on the other side of that is freedom, is joy, is intimacy and friendship with God, is a new way of looking at our life and looking at how this all works. So often we think it’s up to me. I got to get it done, I got to figure it out.
And sometimes the best way forward is to wave the white flag and just to say in all honesty, I give up. I give up and to stop trying to make it all happen, to stop relying completely on ourselves because that narrative tells the story that we’re on our own. It’s all up to us. I have to figure it out, but that’s just not what the Christian life is all about and that’s not what the incarnation tells us. And that’s not as we know what Advent teaches us. Advent teaches us to believe that Jesus is Emmanuel, that He is God with us, full stop.
We can spend the rest of our lives meditating on just that one name of Jesus. And that may be enough for us because God has come to save us. He has come to be with us so much so that He came to give us Himself in the Eucharist and to come and live within us through the power of the Holy Spirit. He made us His sons and daughters.
And so, as we come to the end of discussing this pray method, I wanted to go back to another prayer that we’ve learned in the gospels. It’s when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. And of course, what we see there is the structure of what has come to be known as the Our Father. And I want to pray that prayer and invite you as I’m going to close my eyes and invite you to to pray with me. As I pray that prayer, I want to see if you hear praise, if you hear repentance, if you hear ask, and if you hear yield. Are these four parts of the pray method included in even the Our Father? I think they are, but I want to see what you think. Let’s begin.
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, Amen.
Understanding the Our Father
So, in this prayer, which Jesus taught us to pray, we can see praise first. Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. That’s a statement of praise about who God is and the worthiness even of His name. Holy all hallowed is His name. We see yield next, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Next, we see ask. Give us this day our daily bread. And again, even in this, we can see God orienting prayer around an everyday habit. We’re supposed to ask God daily for our daily bread and that He’s going to give us everything we need for today. Tomorrow can worry about itself. And finally, we see repent. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. We see that it’s conditional as we talked about in the repent section of this series. And so even repentance is included in the Our Father.
And the last one, I’ll leave it up to you, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Do you think that fits in any one of the categories? Again, this isn’t sort of firm and definitive. It’s just one way in which I see how the Our Father carries each one of these steps of this method as well.
How We Pray Matters
And so the reason I find this so important and so helpful, and we go right back to the beginning of this series is that it matters how we pray. If our prayer is just complaining and venting frustration and kind of giving God the silent treatment, that doesn’t form us into who He wants us to be. Even though there are times where we feel like that’s super needed in our prayer life, but when we are formed by praise and formed by repentance and formed by asking, we can see the virtues of faith, hope and love grow in our life as well. So how we pray matters.
And so, it’s been an honor and a joy to pray with you and to be a part of this series. I hope this material has been helpful and that you have a fantastic, holy and fruitful Advent. Let’s finish in prayer.
In the name of the Father, of the Son, of the Holy Spirit. God, we give you praise, we give you love, we give you thanks. We are so grateful for you that you first would teach us how to pray, that you would form us as we pray. And that as we grow in prayer, we become more and more your sons and daughters of God.
Strengthen our relationship with you when we sit down to talk with you, increase our expectation that you will indeed respond to us. Give us great hope, give us great faith and give us great love for you and for others. We pray all of this in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.
About Ryan O’Hara
Ryan O’Hara serves as the Content Director for Saint Paul’s Outreach, a national Catholic organization that ministers to college students on campus. He is passionate about seeing Catholics come alive in Christ, grow to spiritual maturity and become apostles to the people in their life. Ryan has a B.A. in History from William Jewell College and an M.A. in Theology from the University of Notre Dame. He and his wife Jill live in West St Paul, MN and are parents to four sons.