Yesterday, when I touched my icon of the Holy Spirit falling on all those present at Pentecost, the first two lines of this prayer came insistently into my mind. Immediately, I wrote them down, then set about discovering where they would lead me. Within half an hour, the shape, and most of the words for today’s prayer were safely set down. The rest then followed more slowly, throughout the day.
The LORDmustwait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion (Isaiah 30:18; NLT).
Don’t wait for me to grow
Before you come, Lord.
Don’t wait for me to fail
Before you save.
Don’t wait for me to pray
Before you fill me.
Don’t wait for me to plead
Before you give.
Don’t wait for me to change
Before you rescue.
Don’t wait for me to weep
Before you kiss –
For I’m a sinner, through and through,
So come, Lord God, have mercy,
The tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13; NIV).
Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the LORD that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously (Isaiah 55:7; NLT).
On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4; NLT).
Today’s article is the last in a series of three. It draws together what I have learned so far about honest prayer, including praying about the issues hidden in my shadow-self. If you would like to check out the previous two parts, here is the link to Part 1: https://wp.me/p45bCr-dXu, and for Part 2: https://wp.me/p45bCr-dXD.
Then the Lord said to him, “You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy – full of greed and wickedness!” (Luke 11:39; NLT).
Following Biblical teaching on prayer, I want to:
Pray about everything (Philippians 4:6; NLT).
Pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17; NIV).
Pray simply (Matthew 6:7-13; NLT).
Pray truthfully (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).
And these are the things I don’t want to do:
Pray about what I think I should pray about.
Say what I think God wants to hear.
Ask for what I think I should ask for.
Hide whatever is happening in my shadow-self.
My way forward in prayer is to:
Be completely honest, straightforward and direct with God.
Confess my sins as soon as I’m aware of them, say sorry to God, then to the person concerned, and work towards reconciliation, if possible.
Tell God about everything in my shadow-self, especially the issues I would rather hide, ignore, or deny.
Jesus shared everything with God, so I can do the same. For example, I can:
Ask questions, express doubts, and weep.
Tell God about my self-pity, shame and regrets.
Express my frustration, irritation, anger, fear, anguish, grief, dread and despair.
I don’t want to “sanitise” my prayers by concealing my shadow-self. Neither will I say anything which is untrue. For example, I don’t recite prayers about being joyful or loving when these things are not genuinely present in my emotions and behaviour.
Rather, I want to speak the truth in prayer with complete honesty and openness at all times. Nothing I say will ever surprise or shock God, who knows everything about me long before I begin to speak. In fact, he is waiting for me to come to him and to confide in him, just as Jesus confided in him during his time on earth.
The LORDmustwaitfor you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion (Isaiah 30:18; NLT).
Beforeaword is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely (Psalm 139:4; NIV).
I know every thought that comes into your minds (Ezekiel 11:5; NLT).
He knows the secrets of every heart (Psalm 44:21; NLT).
I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives (Jeremiah 17:10; ESV).
O LORD, you have examined my heart and knoweverythingaboutme (Psalm 139:1; NLT).
The LORD’s light penetrates the human spirit, exposing every hidden motive (Proverbs 20:27; NLT).
In all their suffering he also suffered, and he personally rescued them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them through all the years (Isaiah 63:9; NLT).
Confide in him at all times, ye people; pour out your heart before him: God is our refuge (Psalm 62:8; DBY).
As for me, I will confide in thee (Psalm 55:23; DBY).
We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).
Waking this morning from a long, vivid dream in which I was ill, confused, and unable to cope with my own most basic needs, I found comfort in saying my familiar morning prayers.
Then, after asking God’s Spirit to help me, I opened my mind, heart and soul to his lead. Today’s blog shows the first part of what arrived. Tomorrow’s will share the second.
The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-7; RSV).
You alone know what my future will bring.
Please help me to live each day in you,
Always aware of your presence and love,
No matter how sad, confused, helpless, or afraid I feel.
I ask this through your dear Son’s name.
The Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name (John 15L16; NLT).
We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them (1 John 4:16; NLT).
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me (Psalm 23:4; NLT).
Tonight I’m posting an extra blog, because I have decided to start publishing regularly between 9pm and 11pm each day.
Staying up to publish just after 12am is too tiring for me now, whilst the pressure to post in the mornings can be a stressful distraction during my quiet prayer-time.
Tomorrow evening I will continue to explore the meaning and usefulness of dreams, God willing, but for now, here is tonight’s bonus blog:
You are complete through your union with Christ (Colossians 2:10; NLT).
Unite with Christ, our Lord,
Unite with him
In deep despair.
Unite with Christ,
And let him reign
Within your heart –
He knows your pain.
Unite with Christ, our Lord,
Unite with him
In bad and good.
Unite with Christ,
Who knows your fear
For he is always near.
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me (Psalm 23:4; KJV).
The Rosary Hospital
Earlier this week, someone asked for a “pretty” rosary. I felt I understood what she meant, though I knew how limited my available materials are. So yesterday evening I enjoyed making her rosary, using a combination of wooden African beads and a few, matching ceramic ones for the “Our Fathers”. This rosary has a fairly heavy cross, which balances the extra weight of the ceramic beads. It’s hard to judge exactly how it will look when it’s finished, but I do hope it will qualify as “pretty” in its new owner’s eyes!
After writing “Bad dreams”, I had a complete day off yesterday, which included a bit of dancing, some carefully time-limited gardening, and a lot of sleeping!
Some time ago I started to notice how many crosses there are everywhere. I see them in the woodwork of buildings, when road-signs happen to align, on pavements, in shadows, and in all sorts of unexpected places. At one time, I tried to photograph them, but didn’t succeed, as it is my eyes which pick them out and my brain which welcomes them, rather than a camera lens, which just shows a collection of objects. Anyway, these serendipitous sightings of crosses are the starting-place for today’s prayer:
Iamwithyoualways, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20; NLT).
Wherever I look, I see the cross
Where Christ was crucified,
Reminding me of his despair,
His pain, and how he died.
Wherever I go I try to spread
The love he came to give,
Because he died for everyone, So all may fully live.
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10; NLT).
The Rosary Hospital
Here is a rosary I made a day or two ago, now completed, ready to wrap and deliver. I wish it were mine!
Context: Early yesterday morning, during silent contemplation, some words started to thrust themselves upon me. I tried ignoring them, hoping they would drift away. However, they became more and more insistent, until eventually I had to write them down.
Their source was a story told during a zoom session I had attended a few days earlier. The meeting was part of a two-year process of spiritual formation and discernment which I recently joined. The speaker described her dear friend’s practice of responding immediately to events she saw as negative by saying, “Thank you, Jesus.”
This approach to life’s many trials and sorrows certainly beats other reactions, such as impatience, anger, swearing, stress, blaming others and self-pity. Accordingly, I have now started using this practice myself.
Give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18; NIV).
So, as soon as anything happens which I feel to be “negative”, I respond to it immediately by saying, “Thank you, Jesus”. With practice, this approach rapidly starts to become habitual. It’s remarkable how quickly it defuses my negative reactions, turning my mind straight back to God, and getting events into perspective.
A good example of this happened yesterday when I wanted to print a single copy of a prayer from my iPad. The printer is in another room, so I couldn’t see what was happening. After a short time I became aware of a characteristic sound: paper crashing to the floor every few seconds. I hurried to the printer, which was churning out page after page.
My old reaction of instantaneous irritation rose up for a split-second, but then I remembered my new practice, said, “Thank you, Jesus”, spontaneously beginning to laugh as I picked up the paper. All the sting of the event had been removed by those three little words. Then I cut the pages in half and stapled them together to make a little notebook, bringing good from bad.
Opportunities for practicing
Here are a few general examples of opportunities to introduce this practice, but I’m sure you can quickly think of many more:
Trivial irritations and frustrations
Minor misunderstandings and disappointments
Spilling, dropping, or breaking something
Making a mistake, getting something wrong
Accidents and falls
Events not working out as I had hoped
Someone hurts me
Failing at something
Delays, postponements and cancellations
Sickness, pain and disability
Undergoing medical treatment
Receiving bad news
Losing the capacity to do something I used to manage, or enjoy
Losing someone I love, or someone I rely on
Feeling depressed, anxious, afraid, or panic-stricken
Three precious words
To these, and more, as they occur, I will now respond as quickly as possible with those three, precious, deceptively simple words: “Thank you, Jesus”. What a difference they make! Why not try it for yourself?
Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! (Romans 7:25; CSB).
The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away. Blessed be the name of the LORD (Job 1:21; CSB).
I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the LORD (Psalm 116:17; NIV).
Should we accept only good things from the hand of God, and never anything bad? (Job 2:10; NLT).
Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows (John 16:33; NLT).
Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you (Isaiah 30:20; NLT).
I want your will to be done, not mine (Luke 22:42; NLT).
Patient endurance is what you need now (Hebrews 10:36; NLT).
Enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realise that both come from God. Remember that nothing is certain in this life (Ecclesiastes 7:14; NLT).
The LORD your God istesting youto see if you truly love him with all your heart and soul (Deuteronomy 13:3; NLT).
I’ve run out of cord, but more is on order, so will hopefully arrive soon. Meanwhile, today I put all my kit into an organiser box, rather than having it loosely mixed up together in a tray:
Context: A few nights ago I had a vivid, strange and disturbing dream:
I saw a group of very young children who had just been separated from those whose task it was to take care of them. The children weren’t old enough to walk, so they were having to crawl along a rough, narrow, dirty street, moving away from their carers, and towards an unknown destination.
All of them were wailing. It was a heartbreaking sound. In his distress, perhaps blinded by tears, one little boy blundered head-first into a stone wall. He slumped to the ground, and I was shocked to hear him cry out, “They don’t love us any more”, in utter despair, hopelessness and desolation. After that he stopped moving. It was clear that he had given up the will to survive.
My heart went out to him. I jumped up and ran to him, putting my arms round his small body to comfort him. At that moment, I woke up with my arms clasped around my pillow. Instantly, even before I could begin to pray, several realisations struck me hard:
What I realised
Everything I experienced during my childhood laid the foundations of my mental health during adult life.
This includes how I was treated by those who brought me up, as well as by those I was exposed to at school, in churches, clubs, hospitals and all other settings.
Thus, for good or ill, I have been influenced and affected by all the relationships and events I experienced during my formative years.
From my dream, and from the realisations which followed immediately afterwards, I understood even more clearly than before that the damage done to me in childhood caused the wounds and scars I have carried into adulthood.
These wounds shaped the person I have become, including all I feel, think, say and do. They affect how I behave, relate to others, cope with suffering, treat the world, understand God, and even whether or not I want to live. They also affected how I brought up my son, and how I reacted to having a miscarriage.
My dream showed me the mechanism by which so much of my psychological distress and mental illness has been caused. Only God can fully heal the inner damage I sustained, and the consequences with which I have had to live.
I am the LORD who heals you (Exodus 15:26; NLT).
He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.
(Psalm 147:3; NLT).
Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me
(Psalm 23:4; NLT).
1. You are as close to me as breathing.
You are as close to me as dread.
You are as close, Lord, as my heartbeat –
Closer than words unsaid.
2. You are as close to me as weeping.
You are as close to me as pain.
You are as close to me as anguish –
Closer than guilt, or shame.
3. You are as close to me as living.
You are as close to me as prayer.
You are as close to me as panic –
Closer than my despair.
4. You are as close to me as grieving. You are as close to me as kin.
You are as close to me as dying –
Closer, by far, than sin.
Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us (Colossians 3:11; NLT).
1.The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life (Job 33:4; NLT).
2. Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me(Psalm 139:1; NLT).
3. The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words (Romans 8:26; NRSV).
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Mark 15:34; NLT).
4. To all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:11; NLT).
Into your hands I commit my spirit (Psalm 31:5; NIV).
I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-9; NLT).
We come into this world with nothing, and we leave with nothing. Along the way, we experience many joys, trials and sorrows. God gives us everything we have, but he also takes things away from us. Thus, he tests us to see how we freely respond. This process reveals whether or not we love him with all our mind, heart, soul and strength.
No one is exempt from being tested by suffering, including Christ. This is why he is able to suffer with us, whilst helping us to find and follow his way of love through every experience. Jesus’ life and death clearly demonstrate that God brings good out of even the most terrible suffering, and the same can also be true for us.
When others suffer, we pray that they will be strengthened, helped, and healed. Additionally, we can ask God to bring good from what they are undergoing, both for the sufferer, and for others.
However, when we ourselves must suffer, Jesus invites us to shoulder our cross and follow him. This means we have a choice about how to respond to our situation.
3. Responses to suffering
A. We may respond to suffering with resentment, anger, bitterness or despair, blaming God for the troubles he has sent us. If suffering makes it impossible for us to maintain our previous understanding of God, we are likely to become disillusioned, rejecting him, and perhaps even losing our faith altogether. Yet such inner struggles can be healed, because God endlessly waits for us to turn to him, longing to help us reach a deeper understanding of him, and of our suffering.
B. Alternatively, we can respond to suffering by learning to face, accept and even welcome it, seeing it as a way of sharing in the redemptive suffering of Christ. By adopting this approach, we can focus on asking God to help us embrace what we must undergo, for it is useless to fight against his will. As above, we can also pray that God will bring good from our suffering, especially for others. Such an attitude might take many years to develop, but we have our whole lifetime to work on it, until our last breath.
4. Entrusted with suffering
Suffering is not imposed on us without purpose. Rather we are entrusted with a level of suffering that is commensurate to the strength of our faith. Like Jesus, our task is to face it in such as way as to be an example, an encouragement and an inspiration to others. This is how God brings good from it, often in very unexpected ways.
5. Suffering as an opportunity
Suffering can therefore be understood as an opportunity for personal and spiritual growth, a form of service, a privilege, a blessing, an honour and a glory. Such an approach gives rise to a much more positive attitude than seeing it as a random or unfair event, a judgement, or a punishment. We can thank God for it, doing our very best to endure and manage our suffering with patience and love. This approach brings peace of mind, for we can be confident that our approach to suffering will help others, and even ourselves. In this way, suffering is transformed and made meaningful, becoming easier live with, and to bear.
Whatever trials and sorrows we face, we can turn to God and ask for his help. Summoning all our courage, we can choose to trust in him, whilst being as joyful, prayerful, thankful and loving as possible. When we have faith that God will support and teach us through all we experience, we can be assured that our suffering will, in time, bear fruit.
God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering (Genesis 41:52; NIV).
Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21; CSB).
The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7; NIV).
Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows (John 16:33; NLT).
The Lord your God is testing you to see if you truly love him with all your heart and soul (Deuteronomy 13:3; NLT).
Whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free (James 2:12; NLT).
He did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all (Romans 8:32; NLT).
Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested (Hebrews 2:18; NLT).
I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6; NLT).
In all their suffering he also suffered (Isaiah 63:9; NLT).
Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood (Hebrews 13:12; NLT).
In all things God works for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28; NIV).
I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them (1 Timothy 2:1; NLT).
If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me (Matthew 16:24; NLT).
3. Responses to suffering
A. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help? (Psalm 22:1; NLT).
The Lord longs to be gracious to you (Isaiah 30:18; NIV).
The Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion (Isaiah 30:18; NLT).
B. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble? (Job 2:10; NIV).
If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine (Matthew 26:39; NLT).
It is useless for you to fight against my will (Acts 26:14; NLT).
You are hurting yourself by kicking against the goads (Acts 26:14; NET).
It’s foolish to fight against me! (Acts 26:14; CEV).
If we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering (Romans 8:17; NLT).
Submit to God and be at peace with him (Job 22:21; NIV).
God teaches people through suffering and uses distress to open their eyes (Job 36:15; GNT).
Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last (Luke 23:46; NLT).
4. Entrusted with suffering
From the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked (Luke 12:48; NIV).
Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13; GNT).
God chose you to suffer as you follow in the footsteps of Christ, who set an example by suffering for you (1 Peter 2:21; CEV).
5. Suffering as an opportunity
God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation (James 1:12; NLT).
Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory (2 Timothy 2:10; NIV).
He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more (John 15:2; NLT).
We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope (Romans 5:3-4; NIV).
Trust in God (John 14;1; NLT).
Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; NLT).
Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ (Ephesians 5:2; NLT).