Trouble

Mama has the tea ready when I get there for prayer group and Bible study first thing in the morning. I have on the socks that the woman with five kids and stage four cancer knit for me. This is always the first thing – to go right into the throne room of God wearing nothing less than your aching prayers…

Mama, she hands me a mug of steaming tea – apple cinnamon – and tells me it’s Psalms 107 this morning and could I read the chapter right out loud? Read it because it’s manna, and you’ve got nothing to give if you haven’t gathered, and you have to gather word manna at daybreak if you’re going to gain from it the day long. Read it because it’s your very life, and why live emaciated? 

…hadn’t Spurgeon said it? ‘There is no greater mercy that I know of on earth than good health, except to be sickness, and that has often been a greater mercy to me than health. It is a good thing to be without a trouble, but it is a better thing to have a trouble and know how to get grace enough to bear it.’

~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts Devotional

O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;

for his steadfast love endures forever.

Psalm 107:1 (NRSVA)

Ann Voskamp at her beautiful best this morning as I listened to her read from the book of devotions drawn from her first book, One Thousand Gifts. Ann is the first person who taught me that you have to be broken to be mended. Before that I was just broken. And lost. And thinking that there must be something wrong with me, something deep in my soul – a stench that attracted trouble like a bluebottle to decay. Ann showed me that, contrary to my beliefs, the true beauty of God, the love of Christ, was found in the very midst of decay. It turned everything on its head and I began to see the world, the Church and Jesus with fresh eyes. How then can I not give praise? How can I be anything less than thankful?

No more let sorrows grow

Hold the child and hear Him crying,

No more let sorrows grow

He knows my troubles…

~ from the song My Troubles by Andrew Greer

Privilege

It is a privilege to be able to pray on behalf of a fellow human being, a fellow child of God. It is a privilege to know that God allows us to be part of something in which we could never otherwise participate. I pray regularly for various groups and individuals all around the world. They struggle, as we all struggle, all the while unaware of the Light that shines through them, and of the Light that helps others, including me, to see God’s glory in the dust and strain. Thank you, Lord, for the privilege of prayer.

https://m.youtube.com/?#/watch?v=tKjUoE2fack

I have come to realise, recently, that my illness may prevent me from doing the things I long to do for God (as if any of us can do anything for God!) but that doesn’t mean my life on the periphery has any less use for Him. Prayer is something I can do even while resting. God has a use and a purpose for each one of us.

May it all be for His glory. Amen.

 

Prayer in Practice

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from idpinthat.com

And this is the confidence that we have toward [God], that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have [received] the requests that we have asked of him.

1 John 5:14,15 (ESV)

Prayer is the deliberate act of the soul. It is true, full of grace and lasting, for it is united with and fixed into the will of our Lord by the inner working of the Holy Spirit.

~ from Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich

God delights in our prayer. Do not be discouraged. He hears you and knows your heart and your deepest desire. Shine, then, as His light in the darkness of the world. Be your brother’s hands and feet, be your sister’s pillow. God knows and will give you the desires of your heart because your will is aligned with His.

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4

An End in Itself

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As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us… John 17:21

One measure of a healthy life of prayer is that it never seeks a sign.  Prayer should never be an effort to control or manipulate how God acts in our lives. It is not a means to an end but an end in itself.

from The Little Way of Lent by Gary Caster (emphasis my own)

Prayer is the deliberate and steadfast action of the soul. It is true and enduring, and full of grace. Prayer fastens the soul to God and makes it one with His will.

from Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich

Beloved, pray for us.

1 Thessalonians 5:25 (The Life with God Bible NRSV)

Prayer

‘Prayer is the deliberate and steadfast action of the soul’ wrote Julian of Norwich. At its most basic level, prayer is simply talking to God, but the nature of prayer – what it is, how it works, how it benefits us and others – has much greater implications.

Prayer tip #1: God is not a slot machine

There are some common misconceptions about prayer that are rarely spoken of within the Church, which is a huge shame. These misconceptions can lead to a sense of distance between oneself and God, diminished relationships with God and with fellow believers, a sense that God isn’t really listening or, worse, an idea that God is like some kind of heavenly slot machine who will give me what I want if only I can pray the right words, or have enough ‘faith’ (this is not faith – this is superstition, hence the inverted commas), or do the right things (this is living by rules instead of grace – also false). But God has never been a heavenly slot machine!

Right through the bible, from the very beginning, God communicates with His people on His terms – and these terms are always those of love, of relationship, not seaside superstition.

But now thus says the Lord,
    he who created you, O Jacob,
    he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.

Isaiah 43:1 (NRSVA)

Richard Foster and Gayle Beebe write about Thomas Aquinas’ ideas on prayer in their book ‘Longing for God’. They write that he identified several problems or ‘mistakes’ about the nature and function of prayer:

  1. The world operates independently of God – in which case it would appear that God is utterly disinterested.
  2. Everything is fixed – if it is all already fixed, why bother praying?
  3. God changes His mind. ‘This belief arises out of our temptation to interpret certain passages inadequately, or our egocentric hope that God will soften the consequences we bring into our life by our own actions.’ 

Further, they say:

‘Prayer is not telling God what we think, or simply thanking Him for His provision of food and drink. Rather, it is our active, intentional effort to understand what God is doing and how we can join Him. Thus through prayer we become co-participants with God. God’s will sets everything in motion. Our will, directed by devotion and prayer, allows us to participate in His purposes.’ 

Longing for God, Richard Foster and Gayle Beebe

Prayer is a gift, a wonderful gift.