The function of prayer is not to obliviate the self. It is to become the utmost of what we are meant to be no matter what situation we are in. Prayer is the process that leads us to become what Jesus models for us to be.
We watch Jesus confront the leaders of the day. He calls the priests and Pharisees to cleanse the temple and lift from the backs of the people the laws of the synagogue that burden them. He calls the leaders of the state to stop living off the backs of the poor. And he calls us to do the same.
We listen to Jesus jeopardize his social approval, risk his very life by speaking out in public against the oppression of people in both synagogue and state. And he calls us to do the same.
Being immersed in prayer, really immersed in prayer, sears our souls. It forces us to see how far from our own ideals we stand. It challenges the images of goodness and piety and integrity we project. It confronts us with what it really means to live a good life. It requires courage of us rather than simply piety.
It is in following Jesus down from the mountaintop, along the roads of the world, through the public parts of the city, into the ghettoes of the poor and the halls of government and the chanceries of the churches, saying with John the Baptist, “Repent and sin no more,” that prayer gets its hallmark of undisputed credibility.
—from The Breath of the Soul: Reflections on Prayer by Joan Chittister (Twenty-Third Publications)