Those who study languages will be aware that an action can be expressed in different ‘voices’. ‘Active’ voice is where I am doing the action, eg: ‘I speak to him.’ ‘Passive’ voice is where I am the recipient of someone else’s action, eg: ‘I am spoken to, I am being addressed.’
‘Middle’ voice is neither one nor the other but an interaction of both, eg: ‘We engage in conversation.’
Which seems a good description of Christian prayer, neither demanding that God skip to our tune, nor robotically fitting into His machine without discussion, thought or feeling. But two-way, interactive; a willing, mutual and fruitful collaboration. Eugene Peterson describes it like this:
‘I enter into the action begun by another, my creating and saving Lord, and find myself participating in the results of the action. I neither do it, nor have it done to me; I will to participate in what is willed.’ (The Gift p 104 Marshall Pickering)
Jesus invites us to ‘ask and you will receive’ but also teaches us to listen- ‘he that has ears to hear, let him hear!’ and submit- ‘your will be done on earth as in heaven’. Far from being a distant autocrat or impersonal ‘force’, the Son of God expresses a desire for a real relationship with His followers, saying, ‘I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my father I have made known to you.’ (John 15 v14-15)
Those who have tasted the friendship of Jesus gladly live in obedience to Him. For in and through Him we find the ‘conversation’ that brings life!