We do not go into prayer and hope to come out on the other end of the exercise fully grown in the Spirit, perfectly new, totally finished. Not at all. There is too much of us in us to ever disappear. Nor is it meant to. To pray does not mean that we will cease to be ourselves. It simply means that we will come to know clearly what it will take to become more of the Jesus figure we are all meant to be. Prayer confronts us with ourselves and measures the distance between who and what we are and who and what Jesus is. 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.
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 says again and again, “Come, follow me.”