The powerlessness of prayer

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Prayer in the Scriptures is . . . a renunciation of human means.

It is not merely the point beyond which I could not go, the limit of my power which dissolves into impotence, but it is indeed a stripping bare, the abandonment of all human apparatus in order to place myself. . . into the hands of the Lord who decides and fulfills. There is in this a narrow path between laziness and power, between bustle which blots out all relationship with God (Martha and Mary) and cowardly resignation.

It is a narrow path in which prayer has two faces: one a saying to God that I have done everything within my power, the other, a complete surrender of the decision to God, in which I no longer offer as proof of my sincerity an action which I have carried out to the end, but a renunciation of the possibilities of my own strength and initiative. Each of these two faces contain as much truth as the other.

Jacques Ellul Prayer and Modern Man , 30.