What is the relationship between prayer and conversion?
Part II: Three Conversions Through Trial: Trial I
The first trial is one of wandering and hunger. Once [man] has had enough of this trial and is brought to call out to God, he takes to the way of faith, that path whose journey will bring him to the city of Peace. For it is Christ who leads him, Christ who said, “I am the Way”.
from St. Augustine Answers 101 Questions on Prayer by Fr. Ermatinger.
Man awakens in darkness to his condition of being mired in sin; lost, drowned, empty, lacking fulfillment, distant from the foundations of reality and being itself. It is God who awakes man here from his slumber to the beginnings of grace, yet, at this point, man does not know that it is God who has done this. All man knows is a sudden sensation of unrightness; with the world, with himself. The first light, seeming to stem from that which is written upon the heart, is that there is the primordial sense of rightness, of justice, that even though glimpsed so very darkly, he still does not do. Thus, the journey of conversion begins; for realizing the dark of the darkness, he begins to seek after light. Entranced by the glimmering light or convicted by the darkness, it is the same; he is lured by God yet unknown. It is this hunger for truth that moves him to wander seeking that which only gradually begins to take shape. The life of grace begins to dawn. This wandering to and from experience, philosophy, culture, and cult may be brief or it may be extended; but it is a thing that only increases the hunger, for nothing that this world has to offer ultimately satisfies, even as those things grow lighter and more filled with truth. Only God alone satisfies and only Christ alone is the way, the truth, and the light. In this twilight time, when man has awakened but has not yet taken the lighted path of Christ, there is much trial, for the temptation will be to discouragement and complacency. To assume that the grayness is all that there is and to become despondent and abandon the journey. Or worse yet, to return to the darkness and the embrace of sleep; to return to the fleshpots of Egypt. This is the time of trial, of waking, of seeking, of wandering. It is the nibbling of the little fishes upon the bait before the hook is set. It is the time before they are caught by the Fisher of Men.