Prayer: a ‘far away land’ or a place near to hand?

Yesterday I spent 45 mins trying to teach myself how to upload video clips from my PC onto my ipad. Not an idle waste of time but something I needed to master for Messy church next week. After much frustration and very little progress, I sat back and said (out loud),

“Oh Lord if I don’t get anywhere soon with this, I’ll have to move on to a different task”

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It wasn’t really a prayer, I was merely venting my exasperation.

But the very next click on the mouse produced a breakthrough – a video suddenly appeared in the necessary place.

You can make what you like of that coincidence but it was a reminder to me that I am never alone.

I laughed out-loud, “I didn’t think you were listening Lord! I hadn’t really meant to bother you”.

If I really believe that the divine presence and divine power is always right along side me, why do I so often forget to pray?

Then, this morning I was reading Eugene Peterson on prayer – he was commenting on Ephesians 3:14 ‘I bow my knees before the Father’. What he said was so good I’ll quote it at length

The physical act of bowing is an act of reverence. It is also an act of voluntary defencelessness. While on my knees I cannot run away. I cannot assert myself. I place myself in a position of willed submission, vulnerable to the will of the person to whom I’m bowing. It  is an act of retreating from the action so that I can perceive what the action is without me in it, without me taking up space, without me speaking my piece. On my knees I am not longer in a position to flex my muscles, to strut or to cower, hide in the shadows or show off on stage. I become less to that I can become aware of more – I assume a posture that lets me see what reality looks like without the distorting lens of my timid avoidance or my aggressive domination. I set my agenda aside for a time and become still, present to God. 

This posture is not in vogue in a world in which the media, our parents, our employers, our teachers and, perhaps most demanding of all our egos are telling us to make the most of ourselves.

(From Practise Resurrection)

I left my reading time challenged to get out the way in my conversations with God. but my next task was to walk the dog, I wasn’t expecting any more revelations about prayer. I was wrong. Hitting the shuffle button on my music playlist the song that came on was called Faraway Land. I’ve heard it many times before but never realised it was about prayer – going to that quiet place inside and listening for the Father’s voice. It struck me so forcefully I listened to it three times straight over and over. I’ll post a link if you want to hear it online:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPn-qpXbW_0

 (it’s performed by Alison Krauss  and Union Street)

When years seem like days to me
No time on my hands
I run away to a place in me to a faraway land

When home seems so far from me
Heaven’s lights grow dim
It’s just as far as my deepest heart
Where my heart’s father lives

His quiet voice speaking in silence every day
If I will only listen to the words he has to say
I’ll walk in his spirit and see him in my face
I will live, ’cause he will live in my place

When life seem so hard to bear
When shadows look real
The circumstance is your father’s care
Don’t find faith by what you feel

If you have been running too
Stop now in your tracks
Turn again to the one in you
And put your burdens on his back

His quiet voice speaking in silence every day
If I will only listen to the words he has to say
I’ll walk in his spirit and see him in your face
I will live, ’cause he will live in my place

When years seem like days to me
No time on my hands
I run away to a place in me to a faraway land

Songwriters
RON BLOCK

I’ve heard people speak about holy places or special moments as ‘thin places’. Times when the division between our natural reality and spiritual reality seem very thin. I’m sure there are such moments and places but it would also be good to remember that the ‘faraway land’ is never as far as I think.

 

Advent 2: Be Kind

For a while I had a favourite quotation under my email ‘signature’

‘Be kind, for everyone you meet is facing some kind of battle’

I believe it is a quote from Philo.  It’s come back to me again in the last two days in the face of the tragic suicide of the nurse humiliated by the Australian DJ’s. How desperately, desperately sad.  What  a stark reminder that we cannot blunder our way through life making fun of out of other people’s responsibilities and forgetting their fragility.

For we are all fragile and we are all flawed. I feel as sorry for the DJs whose naive thoughtlessness has left them with a huge burden of guilt they will have to live with for the rest of their lives. And who of us are not equally capable of ‘naive thoughtlessness’?

(Oh dear, I’m still in a lamenting mood! Sorry for the lack of seasonal cheer).

So something encouraging from Eugene Peterson’s Christ Plays in a Thousand Places:

‘God, it turns out, does not require good people in order to do good work’ (So that’s a relief, then) …

‘A sin defined history understands history as primarily the experience of what men and women do, some better than us, some worse. Both the statistics and stories are appalling: cruelty, hurt, injuries, betrayal… There bright spots to be sure, but even the bright spots are compromised by bad faith, corrupt motives… ignorant good intentions. By contrast, a salvation defined history accepts all the sin evidence but penetratingly discerns the sovereignty of God and the work of salvation ‘in, through, and under it all’.

In other words, we all need redeeming, forgiving and putting back on our feet and none of us can do this by ourselves. We don’t need explanation or information, we need transformation. And this comes from God.

Ephesians 4:32 ‘And be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another…’

‘Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind’. Henry James

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