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). 

God

Context: As soon as I woke and started to pray today, this is what I saw:

  • Only God is worthy to be worshipped by all people, creatures and things.
  • God makes, maintains and ends them all.
  • God lives over, in and through them all.
  • God can never be destroyed.
  • God is the First and the Last: infinite and eternal.
  • God is Love.

Then, as soon as I began to worship, this little prayer arrived:

God:

1. My Father,
And my Mother;

2. Spirit: Sister;
Jesus: Brother;

3. Maker, Shepherd,
Saviour, Lover:

4. You are all;
I want no other.

God will be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28; TIB).

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.
(Psalm 23:1; NLT).


References 

1. You are our mother and father, YHWH; we are the clay and you are the potter, we are all the work of your hands (Isaiah 64:8; TIB). 

2. Say to wisdom, “You are my sister” (Proverbs 7:4; NIV). 

God has revealed this wisdom to us through the Holy Spirit. She searches out all things, even the deep things of God (1 Corinthians 2:10; TIB). 

Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother (Mark 3:35; NLT). 

3. You cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things (Ecclesiastes 11:5; NIV). 

The Lord is my shepherd (Psalm 23:1; NLT). 

I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior (Isaiah 43:3; NLT). 

My lover is mine and I am his (Song of Songs 2:16; NLT).

4. 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).

God has put all things under Christ’s feet and made Christ, as the ruler of everything, the head of the church, and the church is Christ’s body; it’s the fullness of the One who fills all of creation (Ephesians 1:22; TIB). 

He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (Ephesians 1:22; NKJV). 

This is what the Lord says – Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies: “I am the First and the Last; there is no other God” (Isaiah 44:6; NLT). 

Pilgrim prayer

Introduction

Today’s blog is based on one of my favourite and most frequently-used prayers. I came across it many years ago in a book called “Pocket prayers for pilgrims” (Compiled by John Pritchard, Church House Publishing, 2011). For me, its anonymous author summarises the whole spirit of the Gospel in just a few words:

Lord God,
Whoever you bring into our path today,
May we see Christ in them,
And may they see Christ in us,
For your love’s sake.
Amen.

Development

Over the years, I have personalised this prayer and slowly come to understand the force and breadth of its intention more deeply. This, in turn, has strongly influenced the way I try to live each day. I’ll briefly set out what it has taught me.

Changes

A. At an early stage, I changed “our” to “my”, and “we” to “I”, making its message much more directly personal.

B. I have come to understand its challenge as going far beyond how I speak to, and behave towards, those I meet. Now, I see those God “brings into my path” as including:

  • All who are around me wherever I am (e.g. in the street, hospital, public transport, shops etc).
  •  People I hear about online or from others (whether or not I come into contact with them).
  •  Those I read about in the newspaper.
  •  People I see on television.

C. Even though I don’t know these people, and they don’t know me, I see my task as being to love and pray for them, because Christ is within them all, just as the Bible teaches:

  • Everyone, without exception, reflects God’s divine image (Genesis 1:27; TIB).
  • Everyone is the temple of the living God (Luke 17:21; NKJV).
  • Christ lives in all of us (Colossians 3:11; NLT).
  • Everyone is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16; NLT).

Conclusion 

Using this little prayer daily for many years has brought about profound changes in how I express my faith, especially in terms of how I behave towards others, no matter how I encounter them along my pilgrim way through life.

Saint Luke expresses my approach perfectly when he describes how “Their eyes were opened, and they recognised him” (Luke 24:31; NIV; my emphasis). Thus, my task is to recognise Christ in all, loving and praying for them, and remembering that we are all one (Galatians 3:28; NKJV). In this way, I try to follow Jesus’ teaching: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40; NIV).

May you have a blessed day. I continue to pray for everyone who reads these blogs, those who reject them, those who never read, or say, a prayer, and those who don’t want anything to do with God.


References 

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God (Ephesians 3:19; NLT). 

Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him (Colossians 3:10; NLT). 

Put on your new nature, created to be like God – truly righteous and holy (Ephesians 4:24; NLT). 

The Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image (2 Corinthians 3:18; NLT). 

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5; NIV).

My dear friends, now we are God’s children, but it has not been revealed what we are to become in the future. We know that when it comes to light we will be like God, for we will see God as God really is (1 John 3:2; TIB).

This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ (Ephesians 4:13; NLT).

In darkness

Context: When I woke up yesterday, I said the Lord’s Prayer, closed my eyes again, and continued to pray, using very few words. This went on in darkness for some minutes, until I was suddenly flooded with bright, golden light. Then today’s prayer started to flow. It was a wrench to open my eyes and start writing, but I knew it was essential, for the words would otherwise disappear as quickly as they arrived. 

My expectation is that only when I’m dying will I see this wonderful light and not need to break off to write. From that moment onwards there will be no more need for words: I will simply be absorbed into God’s brilliant, beautiful, infinite light, peace and love.


Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.
(Micah 7:8; NLT).

Yahweh,
When I sit in darkness,
You re-fill me with your light,
And, when I am weak and weary,
You restore me with your might.

Jesus,
When I’m stressed and anxious,
You refresh me with your peace,
And, when I am judged and censured,
Your protection does not cease.

Spirit,
When I’m sad and lonely,
You surround me with your love,
And, when I must leave this world,
You’ll bear my soul to heaven above.

Threefold God,
My source, my goal,
My Father, Mother, kith and kin,
You are here, and live forever –
All around me, and within.

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

The dust returns to the ground it came from,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
(Ecclesiastes 12:7; NIV). 

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).

A journey

Context: Yesterday, as soon as I woke up, I was taken on a journey around and beyond the world. There was no time to pray. Whilst it was happening, I was able to write down what I saw and understood, which has never happened to me before. I had no sense of time passing or of movement, and no awareness of my body or its surroundings.

The experience ended as soon as I had written down the last few words. I don’t know how long it lasted – perhaps an hour or two. Then I became aware of my body, and was very surprised to find myself in bed in my holiday flat, feeling truly awed and astonished by all I had seen. I might easily have thought I had simply been dreaming, except for all I had written down during my journey. Here is the essence of what I wrote:

I am God, and not a man –
the Holy One among you 
(Hosea 11:9; NIV). 

1. God is neither male nor female,
Black nor white, not straight or gay,

2. Not Orthodox, or Catholic,
Or Protestant: God is The Way.

3. God is not Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim,
Buddhist, Jain, or Sikh,

4. Nor any other great world faith,
For God is light, and love, and peace.

5. God is Spirit, here, within us all –
The grace that sets us free.

6. God’s truth, consuming fire, and strength
Are pearls beyond all price, to me.

The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant’s search for fine pearls. When one pearl of great value was found, the merchant went back and sold everything else and bought it (Matthew 13:45-6; TIB).


References 

1. Humankind was created as God’s reflection: in the divine image God created them; female and male, God made them (Genesis 1:27; TIB).

2. Keep in mind that God’s greatness exceeds our knowledge; God’s vastness is a mystery (Job 36:26; TIB). 

I am the way (John 14:6; NIV).

God’s way is perfect (2 Samuel 22:31; NLT).

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

Follow the way of love (1 Corinthians 14:1; NIV). 

3. God is greater than we can understand (Job 36:26; NLT). 

4. God is light (1 John 1:5; NLT).

The Lord is peace (Judges 6:24; NLT). 

5. God is Spirit (John 4:24; NLT). 

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

When we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin (Romans 6:7; NLT).

God’s grace has set us free from the law (Romans 6:15; NLT).

6. The Spirit is truth (1 John 5:6; NKJV).

God is a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24; NIV).

The Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength (Isaiah 26:4; KJV).

I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace (Acts 20:24; NIV). 

Elohim


Context:
This prayer arrived early in the morning when I’d only just woken up. There are times when I hide under my duvet, because what I receive feels so awesome, and this was one of those times. Seeing and writing it left me quite shaky for a couple of hours.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
(Genesis 1:1; TIV). 

Yahweh,
Maker and Sustainer,
Living, loving
All in all.

 Jesus,
Light and truth, divine,
God’s human face,
The Chosen One.

Spirit Being
Sister, Brother,
Breath of God,
Like flame; like dew.

*Elohim,
All One, All Love,
All Ways in me,
And I in you.

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).


Notes and acknowledgements

*Elohim: is a Hebrew word meaning “gods”. Although the word is plural in form, in the Hebrew Bible it usually refers to a single deity, particularly (but not always) the God of Israel. At other times it refers to deities in the plural (Wikipedia). 

Spirit: The word for “spirit” (rucha, ruach) in Aramaic and Hebrew, is feminine whereas in Greek (pneuma), it is neutral in gender. On some occasions in the Greek text, masculine verb endings and pronouns are used with the neutral gender word “Spirit” when speaking about the Holy Spirit, and sometimes it is without the definite article – i.e. just “Holy Spirit”.

Although in the Aramaic text rucha is feminine, it also uses masculine grammatical forms with the word. This conveys the male/female attributes of Yahweh carried in His ‘breath’ which of itself is neutral in gender. Being often addressed as “it” and “the”, also confirms that it is another “Person” in a trinity of ‘gods’. The term, “Holy Spirit” is a descriptive title. It is a description given for a specific manifestation of the Father’s Spirit Being (Wikibooks).

Transfixed

Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10; NLT). 

Transfixed by God in stillness,
Here I wait, for you are always near,
To share each prayer, and sigh and tear
Together.

Transfixed by God in silence,
Now I worship wordlessly, and bow,
For you are with me, I and Thou,
My Saviour.

 Transfixed by God in solitude,
I celebrate your perfect love,
Renewed, forgiven through your blood
Forever.

Transfixed by God in darkness,
Lord, your Spirit hovers here, adored;
Though made of dust, I am restored
To wholeness.

Transfixed by God in perfect bliss,
I cleave to you; we interweave:
United, may I never leave
Your presence.

Let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.
(Hebrews 10:22; NLT).  

Because of Christ and our faith in him,
we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.
(Ephesians 3:12; NLT). 

Images

The LORD is like a father to his children.
(Psalm 103; 13; NLT).

As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.
(Isaiah 66:13; NIV). 

Holy Spirit, pray within me –
Like a father, safely guiding,
Like a mother, reconciling,
Like a teacher, gently chiding –
Now, and evermore.

Holy Spirit, pray within me –
Like a potter, smoothly moulding,
Like a mentor, wisely scolding,
Like a comforter, enfolding –
Now, and evermore.

Holy Spirit, pray within me –
Like a pastor, interceding,
Like a doctor, caring, healing,
Like a pilgrim, sighing, pleading –
Now, and evermore.

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).


Reflections on Biblical translation 

I’m often struck by how powerfully Biblical translations influence the thinking, attitudes, beliefs and behaviour of their readers. The consequences of such effects can be positive or negative, both for the holder, and for those they relate to.

Below are four renderings of the quote which ends today’s blog. They illustrate how differently these verses can be translated in terms of the grammatically gendered pronouns used to refer to God’s Spirit. I have highlighted the relevant words for each quotation:

1. Neuter/masculine
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God (KJV).

2. Masculine
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God (NIV).

3. Feminine
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 (TIV).

4. Inclusive
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 (NRSV).

Discussion
These four quotes illustrate significantly different ways of translating the original Greek text. All of them are justifiable, though the first three are incomplete. This is because the Greek word used for “Spirit” here is grammatically neuter, whilst its definite article (the) denotes feminine, masculine and neuter. Moreover, the reflexive pronoun translated as “Himself” in the second example, actually means he, she, it, they, them and same (Strong’s Greek).

The sheer breadth of meaning that needs to be compressed into a single pronoun here is stunning, and sadly the English language offers no easy way to express the extraordinary inclusivity of the Greek. The fourth quotation is the only one which manages this, by carefully using solely inclusive, non-gendered vocabulary.

I have great sympathy for translators faced with the challenge of trying to convey such complex meanings, especially as the decisions they make are also likely to be influenced by countless conscious and unconscious factors. Here I would include, for example, the conventions, attitudes and prejudices of their era regarding the ascribed roles and status of women and men. Each translator’s individual upbringing, education, training, experience and stage of faith development are also likely to play a part in the words they choose. So I don’t envy these brave souls, who carry a heavy burden of responsibility for how each reader understands, and responds to, every word they read in their chosen Biblical translation.

Acknowledgement
All the grammatical information on which this discussion is based is taken from Strong’s Greek, which is publicly available, free of charge, via Blue Letter Bible, at: https://www.blueletterbible.org

When I clasp my hands

Context: When I was praying this morning, with my little olive-wood holding cross clasped between the palms of my hands, I saw that heaven was between them. Today’s prayer then flowed straight into my mind. After writing it, I discovered, to my great delight, that I was able to say it whilst moving smoothly between the actions described in each verse.


Pray constantly (1 Thessalonians 5:17; TIV). 

1. When I clasp my hands together,
Heaven is between them.

2. When I lift my hands in prayer,
Yahweh, you are near.

3. When I fold my arms across my breast,
Christ, you embrace me,

4. And when I breathe your name,
Beloved Spirit, you are here.

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

In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on servants –
men and women alike (Joel 2:29; NLT).


References 

1. Jesus summoned the crowd and the disciples and said, “If you wish to come after me, you must deny your very self, take up your cross and follow in my footsteps” (Mark 8:34; TIV). 

2. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless YHWH! (Psalm 134:2; TIV). 

You are near, Yahweh (Psalm 119:151; WEB).

3. 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). 

4. Yahweh God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7; WEB). 

When the Paraclete comes – the Spirit of Truth who comes from Abba God, whom I myself will send from my Abba – she will bear witness on my behalf (John 15:26; TIV).

He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22; NIV).

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

I’m nothing

Note

Greetings to all who see this post. Yesterday I received some negative comments about my way of addressing God in the day’s blog (I seek you: https://wp.me/p45bCr-bku).

This put me in a difficult position, because I can only express and share what God gives me, even though what I write may be rejected by some readers.

However, today I was shown a way forward which will hopefully honour us all. So from now on each prayer will be purely personal, addressed directly from my heart to God within. When appropriate, I will also briefly outline the context for some prayers.


Context of today’s prayer

Tomorrow I hope to face my most challenging fear: using a lift. I’ve been severely claustrophobic since early childhood, and have avoided lifts whenever possible throughout my life. Now that I use a rollator, stairs have become impossible, so it’s time to tackle this fear head-on. Sadly, with a migraine tonight, though, I may not be well enough to face it…

I am nothing but dust and ashes (Genesis 18:27; NIV). 

1. I’m nothing, God:
I’m small, and weak, and mortal –
Made of dust.

2. Without you
I can’t even pray,
But in your strength I trust.

3. I beg your Spirit,
Deep within,
To help me face my fears,

4. To intercede,
To sigh for me,
And, one day, dry my tears.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.
(Revelation 21:4; NLT).


References 

1. He knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust (Psalm 103:14; NLT. 

2. You cannot do anything without me (John 15:5; CEV).

We do not know how to pray as we ought (Romans 8:26; NRSV).

The Lord is my strength and shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me (Psalm 28:7; NIV). 

3. You have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you (1 John 2:27; NLT). 

The Spirit helps us in our weakness (Romans 8:26; NRSV).

In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall (2 Samuel 22:30; NLT). 

Your strength will support me (Psalm 139:9; NLT). 

I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13; NLT)..

4. That very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words (Romans 8:26; NRSV).