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Part of the Christian life is learning to surrender to God. In this excerpt from his book Prayer, Richard Foster helps us understand the Prayer of Relinquishment

The Prayer of Relinquishment

from Chapter 5 of Richard Foster's Book Prayer

The prayer of Relinquishment is a bona fide letting go, but it is a release with hope. We have no fatalist resignation. We are buoyed up by a confident trust in the character of God. Even when all we see are the tangled threads on the backside of life's tapestry, we know that God is good and out to do us good always.

Relinquishment brings us to the priceless treasure: the crucifixion of our will. Paul knew what a great gift this was. ...Do you know what a great freedom this crucifixion of the will is?...

Little by little we are changed by this daily crucifixion of the will. Changed not like a tornado changes things, but like a grain of sand in an oyster changes things. New graces emerge; new ability to cast all our care upon God, new joy at the success of others, new hope in a God who is good.

Please remember we are dealing with the crucifixion of the will, not the obliteration of the will. Crucifixion always has resurrection tied to it. God is not destroying the will but transforming it so that over a process of time and experience we can freely will what God wills. In the crucifixion of the will we are enabled to let go of our tightfisted hold on life and follow our best prayers.

The Practice of Prayer

Only through the specifics of daily life can you be led into the prayer of relinquishment. The will is surrendered moment by moment as you face an ordinary decision of home, family and job. I cannot prescribe for you how this is done. In fact, you will not know the shape of relinquishment until specific issues arise. So the practice will come through lived experience. I am able however, to give you some practiced prayers that you then can interpret into your individual situation. 

First learn the prayer of self-emptying. Meditatively pray through Philippians, chapter 2, which describes the self-emptying of Christ, who was in the form of God but who voluntarily took on the form of a servant and became obedient to the point of death. Let the brooding Spirit of God apply your prayer to the specifics of your day. Wait quietly. Listen carefully. Obey immediately.

Second, learn the prayer of surrender. Using Matthew, Mark or Luke, go with Jesus into the Garden. Stay awake and watch. See his sorrowing soul. Let your heart be saddened too. Struggle with him in seeking other options, hoping to avoid the cup. Now, speak his words as your own: "Not my will, but yours be done." Invite the resurrected one to interpret the words into your life, your family, your vocation.

Third, learn the prayer of abandonment. De Caussade's book Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence may be helpful. You might want to use the words of Charles de Foucauld: "Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will. Whatever you may do, I thank you: I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures - I wish no more than this, O Lord," Allows the Sovereign of your heart to specify what needs to be laid at his feet.

Fourth, learn the prayer of release. First lift up into his arms your relationships. Next place into his loving care your future, your hopes, your dreams. Finally hold up to him your enemies, your angers, your desire for retaliation. Give it all into his hands and then turn around and walk away. He will care for everything as he sees fit.

Fifth, learn the prayer of resurrection. "Lord," you may pray, "Bring back to life what will please you and advance your kingdom. Let it come in whatever form you desire. Let it be in your time and your way. Thank you, Lord, for resurrection." Some things will remain dead- it is better for you that they do. Others will burst forth into new life in such a way tat you will hardly recognize them. In either case, rest in the confidence that God is better than you are at resurrection.

Our sojourn into the Prayer of Relinquishment has only begun. We have so much to learn, so far to go. Relinquishment takes us into rugged terrain. The climb is steep, the rocks are sharp, and the trail passes by precarious ridges. From every human viewpoint at times it looks like we have fallen over the precipice to our death. But we know better. We know that we are only falling into the arms of Jesus fully satisfied, fully at rest.


O Lord, how do I let go when I'm so unsure of things? I'm unsure of your will, and I'm unsure of myself...That really isn't the problem at all is it? The truth of the matter is I hate the very idea of letting go. I really want to be in control. No, I need to be in control. That's it, isn't it! I'm afraid to give up control, afraid of what might happen. Heal my fear, Lord.

How good of you to reveal my blind spots even in the midst of my stumbling attempts to pray. Thank you!

But now what do I do? How do I give up control? Jesus please, teach me your way of relinquishment. - Amen"