20.9.22: The source of prayer

Context: Yesterday, I woke and began to pray, as usual. My list of people to pray for was at hand, but it is long, and I was weary of pushing myself to pray for each one in turn. So instead I just opened myself to being led in prayer.

Almost immediately, I received the first line of today’s blog, and wrote it down, then waited quietly, to see what would happen next. This is what I experienced:

The source of prayer is deep within. It comes from God, who lives in every soul (1).

God is our breath, our spirit, and our Saviour (2).

So I allowed God’s Spirit to guide my prayers (3). 

I prayed very simply for those who came to mind, feeling peaceful and unhurried (4).

To my considerable relief, no further insights arose from the dark depths of my unconscious mind. This meant I wouldn’t have to spend the day trying to express something that was difficult to put into words.

After praying for others until no more names appeared, I worshipped in silence until my prayer reached a comfortable, natural ending (5). 

It was bliss (6).


References 

1. You are the temple of the living God (Luke 17:21; NKJV).

Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us (Colossians 3:11; NLT).

Don’t you realise that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16; NLT).

2. The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life (Job 33:4; NLT). 

I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior (Isaiah 43:3; 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. And God, who searches the heart, 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; NRSV).

4. 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). 

5. YHWH is in the Holy Temple: let all the earth be silent in God’s presence (Habakkuk 2:20; TIB). 

6. Thou makest me to know the path of life; in Thy presence is fulness of joy, in Thy right hand bliss for evermore (Psalm 16:11; JPS Tanakh 1917). 

17.9.22: God already knows

A few days ago I found it very hard to pray when I woke up, which is unusual for me. However, to my surprise, some insight still arrived. This what I saw:

Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs (Matthew 6:32; NLT). 

Whenever I turn to you and ask for your help, Lord, I find that you already know what I need, and you’re already offering it. You’re pouring out love all the time, waiting patiently, and longing for me to accept your assistance:

  • When I ask you to forgive me, you’re already offering forgiveness
  • When I ask you to heal me, you’re already offering healing
  • When ask you to strengthen me, you’re already offering strength
  • When I ask you to help me pray, you’re already helping me to pray
  • When I ask you to hear my prayers, you’re already listening to them
  • When I ask you to comfort me, you’re already offering me your comfort

All I need to do is to accept with gratitude what you are already offering.

Lord, you anticipate my every need. May I continually turn to you with total confidence, knowing you will help me in all circumstances. Thank you for being so great, so good and so kind.

In Jesus’ name,
Amen.

I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours (Mark 11:24; NLT). 

The Lord God helps me (Isaiah 50:7; RSV).


References 

The Lord who made you and helps you says: Do not be afraid, O Jacob, my servant, O dear Israel, my chosen one. For I will pour out water to quench your thirst and to irrigate your parched fields (Isaiah 44:3; NLT). 


The Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion (Isaiah 30:18; NLT).

Your Father knows exactly what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:8; NLT).

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done (Philippians 4:6; NLT).

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him (1 John 5:14-15; NIV).

14.9.22: Praying for myself

When I pray for others, I ask for them to be comforted, strengthened and healed. But when I pray for myself, my approach is completely different.

When I pray for myself I don’t ask God to take my trials and sorrows away (see reference #1). Instead, I thank God for them all (2).

This might initially sound strange. However, praying for myself is my opportunity to ask God to help me accept and face each challenge squarely. God then helps me to work out how to deal with each problem in consciously assertive, proactive ways, whilst strengthening me to change, as I put these new approaches into practice (3).

I am then able to take responsibility for tackling each issue in line with God’s will (4).

As I start to change my approach and take action, I experience a growing sense of healing and relief (5).

Over the days, weeks, months and years that follow, as I learn to put each new way forward into practice, I give thanks, because I know that God is working to bring about good for me through everything that happens in my life (6).


References 

1. I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world (John 16:32-3; NLT).

2. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; NIV).

3. You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall (2 Samuel 22:29; NIV).

4. I want your will to be done, not mine (Luke 22:42; NLT).

I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart (Psalm 40:8; NIV).

5. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground (Psalm 143:10; NIV). 

6. In all things God works for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28; NIV).

13.9.22: Call me

Context: At the end of an eventful day, I was thanking God for all I had experienced, when suddenly this little prayer began to rise in my mind. Each line led to the next, until it was finished almost before I knew it. I’m so grateful to God for offering me a fresh start every day, bringing new opportunities for prayer, praise, thanks, rejoicing, comfort, repentance, forgiveness and service.

I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name (Isaiah 45:3; NLT). 

Call me to your path each day, Lord,
Draw me to your side.

Take me in your arms each day,
Forgive my foolish pride.

Bind me to your heart each day, Lord, 
Keep me close to you.

Merge my soul with yours each day, 
Then help me start anew.

His mercies begin afresh each morning (Lamentations 3:23; NLT).


References 

Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:15-18; NIV).

Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23; NLT).

12.9.22: When I’m rushing

Following my blog about being introduced to my ‘Pause’ button a few days ago (see https://wp.me/p45bCr-ccE), I discovered yesterday that I also have available a ‘Slow’ button, a ‘Stop’ button and a ‘Rest’ button. This is very exciting, because I’ve never consciously recognised, or been able to access, any of these inner control buttons before. Here is what sprang from this healing realisation:

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart…

When I’m rushing,
I press Slow, Lord,

When I want to,
I press Pause;

When I need to,
I press Stop, Lord,

Then I Rest,
Within your hands.

…and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:28-9; NLT).


References

Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed. On the seventh day God had finished all the work of creation, and so, on that seventh day, God rested. God blessed the seventh day and called it sacred, because on it God rested from all the work of creation (Genesis 21-3; TIB).

Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile” (Mark 6:31; NLT).

8.9.22: Starting afresh

Today is my 70th birthday, and it marks a fresh start here on my blog, as outlined yesterday (https://wp.me/p45bCr-cbb). From today, until a review in one month’s time, I will be sharing much more directly what God gives me, without trying to shape it into poetry or articles. Instead, my blogs will take the form of an honest daily, spiritual diary.

Hopefully, this change will enable me to continue communicating with you, whilst reducing my workload appropriately as my health deteriorates. Introducing this change is exciting, and makes me feel much more optimistic about the future, no matter what it may hold. So, here is the first entry in my new spiritual diary.

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” (Genesis 28:16; NLT).

Lord, please help me to remember that I live in your presence. I want to be conscious of your nearness, day and night.

As I get older, you’re slowly revealing the contents of my unconscious mind. Please help me to learn from all you show me. Thank you for everything you bring out of my inner darkness. By the time I die, I want to have discovered, faced and accepted as many as possible of the treasures hidden there, however challenging this process may be.

Help me to shine as a beacon of your love wherever I am and in all circumstances, confident that everything is just as you wish it to be. May I learn from all I experience.

Lord, my life here is an exile and a pilgrimage. Whatever happens, please help me to keep on heading back home to you, whilst doing what I can to serve those I encounter along the way. Thank you for taking care of everything else.

I ask all this in your dear Son’s name. Amen.

I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches from secret places so that you may know that I am the Lord (Isaiah 45:3; CSB).

He reveals deep and mysterious things and knows what lies hidden in darkness (Daniel 2:22; NLT).

God must wait

Context: “The Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion” (Isaiah 30:18; NLT). For me, this is one of the most remarkable verses in the Bible.

God longs for a two-way relationship with us, suffers with us through all our trials and sorrows, and is always ready to help: “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).

YHWH longs to be gracious to you (Isaiah 30:18; TIB). 

During my time here, Lord,
Learning to live,
You have been waiting
To help me forgive.

During my time here, Lord,
Each time I wept,
You have been longing
To help me accept.

During my time here, Lord,
Learning to care,
You have been eager
To help me in prayer.

After my time here, Lord,
Learning to love,
You will be ready
To greet me, above.

So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him (Luke 15:20; NLT). 

Like a lion

Context: This poem arrived after I watched a TV programme about a man who brings up rescued sun-bear cubs in his home. He does this in order to save them from the cruel bear-bile industry.

Giving them all the loving care they need, he slowly, painstakingly rehabilitates each cub, introducing them to the world, just as their mother would have done. Eventually, the young bears graduate to a Wildlife Centre, where they have lots of space to express their natural behaviours and instincts, and to interact with other bears. The man’s constant purpose is to give these traumatised, motherless creatures a rich and satisfying life, which is exactly the same as Christ’s aim for us all (John 10:10; NLT).

Whilst praying without words, I saw that this man is like a mother-bear to the cubs, just as Jesus is like a mother to us all. No matter what damage we have sustained in life, Christ’s purpose is to heal and rehabilitate us, just like the man caring for the orphaned cubs:

I won’t leave you orphaned; I will come back to you. A little while now and the world will see me no more; but you’ll see me; because I live, and you will live as well. On that day you’ll know that I am in God, and you are in me, and I am in you (John 14:18-20; TIB). 

We can’t see God, but the Bible is packed with vivid images, metaphors, similes, poems and parables which illustrate different aspects of what God is like. Here is just one example:

Go, inspect the city of Jerusalem. Walk around and count the many towers. Take note of the fortified walls, and tour all the citadels, that you may describe them to future generations. For that is what God is like (Psalm 48:12-14; NLT; my emphasis).

This verse is particularly useful, as it demonstrates the limitations of figurative language, as well as its richness. Such images are not meant to be taken literally. Rather, they are an invitation to meditate on the qualities of God they can reveal.

Then, when I had seen all this, these verses arrived:

God is love (1 John 4:8; NLT).

God is like a lion,
Like a tiger,
Like a bear.

God is like an eagle,
Like a raven,
Like a dove.

God is like a keening,
Like a murmur,
Like a plea.

God is like a father,
Like a mother:
God is love.

God is like a mountain,
Like an ocean,
Like a storm.

God is like a day-star,
Like a comet,
Like a sun.

God is like a heartbeat,
Like a whisper,
Like a sigh.

God is like a father,
Like a mother:
God is One.

God is one (Mark 12:32; NIV).


References 

There is …one God and Creator of all, who is over all, who works through all and is within all (Ephesians 4:5-6; TIB).

The Spirit, too, comes to help us in our weakness. For we don’t know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit expresses our plea with groanings too deep for words. And God, who knows everything in our hearts, knows perfectly well what the Spirit is saying, because her intercessions for God’s holy people are made according to the mind of God (Romans 8:26-7; TIB). 

Shadow-self

Context: Earlier this week I unexpectedly got in touch with some deeply-buried aspects of my shadow-self, which was absolutely shattering (see https://wp.me/p45bCr-bWz). Lots of tears, prayers and much painful honesty followed. In the end, of course, it proved to be a very healing experience. 

What is the shadow-self? 

Robert Johnson describes the shadow-self as the “…dumping-ground for all those characteristics of our personality that we disown.” 

He goes on to remark that “These disowned parts are extremely valuable and cannot be disregarded.” This is because “To honor and accept one’s own shadow is a profound spiritual discipline. It is whole-making and thus holy, and the most important experience of a lifetime” (see pp ix-x, “Owning your own shadow – understanding the dark side of the psyche”, Robert A. Johnson; HarperCollins 1993).

The same author later comments that “To own one’s own shadow is to reach a holy place  – an inner centre – not attainable in any other way. To fail this is to fail one’s own sainthood and to miss the purpose of life” (Ibid, p17).

The Bible shows that Jesus, too, had a shadow-self. Some of his most significant experiences brought him face-to-face with his inner temptations, anger, anguish, fear, doubt and despair. Thus, as we strive to become more like him, we, too, need to face, own, accept and integrate our shadow selves, just as he did. 

Following the dramatic emergence of parts of my own buried shadow-self, this prayer surfaced whilst I was saying grace before breakfast:

Trust in God always, my people;
pour out your hearts before God our refuge.

(Psalm 62:8; TIB). 

1. I face my shadow-self with God,
Like Jesus, in the wilderness,

2. And show my shadow-self to God,
Like Jesus, in the Temple.

3. I share my shadow-self with God,
Like Jesus, in Gethsemane,

4. And give my shadow-self to God,
Like Jesus, on the cross.

Then at three o’clock Jesus called out with a loud voice,
“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means
“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
(Mark 15:34; NLT).


Jesus called out with a loud voice,
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
When he had said this, he breathed his last.
(Luke 23:46; NLT).


References 

1. Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry. During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread” (Matthew 4:1-3; NLT). 

Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone’ ” (Matthew 4:5-6; NLT). 

Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me” (Matthew 4:8-9; NLT). 

2. Jesus went to Jerusalem. In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” (John 2:13-16; NLT).

3. He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! 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 26:37-39; NLT). 

My flesh, my blood


Context:
Yesterday I stirred at 6am, and all I wanted was to go back to sleep. My bed was blissfully warm and comfortable, but today’s prayer began to nag insistently in my mind until I forced myself to wake fully and discover what it wanted to say. To my great surprise, it turned out to be this wide-awake, effervescent song of praise:

“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.
(John 20:28; NLT). 

1. My Lord, my God; my flesh, my blood:
You fill my body with your love.

2. My Lord, my God; my bread, my wine:
You make my sinful mind your shrine.

3. My Lord, my God, my strength, my prayer:
You teach my hard, cold heart to care.

4. My Lord, my God, my sword, my shield:
You touch my soul, and I am healed. 

5. My Lord, my God, my everything:
You make my spirit dance and sing!

People in Zion will dance as they sing,
“Everything I am has its source in you.”
(Psalm 87:7; TIB).


References 

1. If you don’t eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Chosen One, you won’t have life in you. Those who do eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Everyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me, and I live in them (John 6:53-6; TIB).

We know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them (1 John 4:16; NIV). 

2. As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body” (Matthew 26:26; NLT).

He took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many (Matthew 26:27-8; NLT).

We are the temple of the living God (2 Corinthians 6:16; NLT).

3. The LORD GOD is my strength and my song (Isaiah 12:2; NLT). 

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you (Ezekiel 36:26; NIV). 

4. He is your protecting shield and your triumphant sword! (Psalm 28:7; NLT).

He restores my soul (Psalm 23:3; NKJV). 

5. I pray to you, O LORD. I say, “You are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life (Psalm 142:5; NLT).

Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him (Philippians 3:8-9; NLT). 

The LORD is my strength and my song (Exodus 15:2; NLT). 

Let them praise God’s Name with festive dance; let them sing praise (Psalm 149:3; TIB).