Tag Archives: prayer

an arrow attached to a tree

More Random Thoughts

(A one minute read or a lifetime of pondering).

Life is full of a questions and ideas. Some of them pass like the wind. Some fall to earth and become objects of curiosity for a time. A few of them grow into something I can write about.

Some parts of this short collection could appear later in more complete form. Or may pass like the wind. I can’t see from here.

They are offered for you to think about, write about, or forget about. Freely they were given, so freely I give them away.

  • A life well lived is like a cup shaped by the Potter’s hand. We spend it filling ourselves up, and then pouring ourselves out.
  • We build our monuments on the high ground so as to secure the high ground for what we value, lest it be claimed by lesser hands.
  • We have moved from the age of the Tree of Life to the age of the Bread of Life.
  • Life is our journey to personify God.
  • What is my Spiritual Immune System? How do I strengthen it? How does it fight off ‘sickness?’
  • Good storytelling is like good photography. The framing is as important as the subject.
Alan Searle photo

My Resting Face

(A four minute read)

My writing has seemed a little heavy the last few months. I just looked through it and boy are my arms tired. Much too much heavy lifting. This is the joy – and pain – of being a disclosive writer. It builds up my emotional biceps, now bulging with vulnerability. The sweat that pours off my brow is froth from exercising my faith.

You might expect my poetry to be personal, transparent. Free verse-as-memoir, as it were. But shouldn’t essays simply be a Thought Parade of fact after fact, building toward conclusion? Aren’t they for purchasing your time with pique in order to sell you an opinion?

Then why are mine led by the brass band of a momentary idea with floats of metaphor trailing behind? The occasional politician of persuasion waves from a classic convertible. The clowns throw candy. The fire engines wow the kids. The crowd enjoys the moment.

After the procession has passed, I’m older and wiser and yes – less hidden. But the roadway is now empty.

And you? Do you take your folding chair and go home? Or do you linger a while?

The dark night of the soul occasionally visits my address. No matter I didn’t send an invitation. When it does walk in, then the overhead lights don’t work. Life dims. There’s nothing to see inside. I have to roll with this, spending as much time as possible staring out the window. Slow down, brother, there are plenty of clouds to look at, and even dull overcast has a message, it seems.

But then, one day without warning, God says it’s time for transition and everything changes. Suddenly I’m an MGM Dorothy, returning to consciousness, opening the door of my black-and-white battered farmhouse of a world into a full-color Oz. Cue the Munchkins and pass the Golly Gee Whiz.

This new full-color world is just as dangerous as the dull monochrome one. Perhaps more so, because the shiny distractions are shinier. My lizard brain seems to function better. Distraction is now a feature, not a bug. The spring in my step leads to more dancing off the path into deep weeds. The bounce can end with a thud.

So there was an excuse for the heaviness you endured with me (thanks for being there). But (to continue being transparent), there’s something beyond appearances you need to know. When I step outside my own work it seems strange to read so much contemplation from a guy who used to write comedy and satire for a living. Oh well, that was another era.

As you might suspect after reading Paul’s letter to the Romans, that guy’s dead anyway. If you don’t get that joke, don’t worry. I know I can be obtuse. Just move on.

Back on topic, such as it is. My spiritual resting state is often one of contemplation, although this almost invariably occurs in a place of great joy. Salvation creates joyful identity, after all. If it doesn’t, I’m not doing it right; it ain’t Jesus’ fault, even when the sky is cloudy.

This joy may not always be apparent in what I write, I’ve concluded. And – true confession – the past couple of months have been full of wrestling with some spiritual matters. Very Jacobean of course, and it always ends with me limping. It’s unclear why I still attempt the match, since I’m always over-matched.

If these bouts have ever ended with an ‘I-won’t-let-go-of-you-until-you-bless-me’ demand I’m not aware of it.

What I am aware of is that some of my writing doesn’t seem to have that wry chuckle I always hear inside myself. That twinkle I see in my own eye. No, it seems to mirror what someone very close to me refers to as my ‘resting face.’ That’s the one where I appear to either have no expression, or perhaps look somewhat piqued.

It’s all physical. After 65 years of gravity, my face is naturally a bit saggy. I have to actively work to keep that boyish grin beaming at you. As for the writing, well – like me myself – it’s still a work in progress.

Pamphlet

A Life of Prayer

(A four-minute read)

Some days I wake up with unanswered questions. These aren’t questions for research, but they are life-changing. Or at least perspective-changing. They’re questions God pops into my head. They’re questions I can’t immediately answer. They are meat to be chewed until the flavor comes through in the form of insight.

A Life of Prayer

Today’s question is about prayer. Do I have a prayer life, or do I lead a life of prayer?

No simple question, and it immediately leads to more questions:

– How would I tell the difference?
– Is the former adequate?
– Is the latter more desirable?
– If I have the former, and want the latter, how do I get it?
– What transforms me from a man who prays, to a praying man?

Inevitably, I have more than a mouthful; it’s now turned into a meal.

The apostle Paul told the Thessalonian church to ‘Pray without ceasing.’ 1 I get a vision of someone on his knees from morning to night, getting up only for food or relief.

There are stories told of great prayer warriors who spent so much time in prayer that there was a groove worn in the floor where they knelt, and a rubbed-raw forehead-sized spot on the wall. Or they would kneel in the snow long enough to come away with bloody knees.

Do I really need to do any of that to ‘pray without ceasing’?

I could. But not necessarily. There may be a more subtle answer.

Some Useful Advice

Theologian N. T. Wright describes the verses in and around ‘Pray without ceasing’ as a type of memory device for the young Christians in Thessalonica:

‘Rejoice always.
Pray without ceasing.
In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
Do not quench the Spirit.
Do not despise prophecies.
Examine all things.
Firmly hold onto what is good.
Abstain from all appearances of evil.’ 2

Wright says in his ‘Paul for Everyone’ series that these are aids such as we’d use for learning grammar rules, like ‘I before E except after C’. The reason we have them, he says, is so we learn them until they become second nature to us, and we no longer have to think about them.3

Back to my original question then. Do I have a prayer life? Or do I live a life of prayer?

A Life of Prayer

The term ‘prayer life’ describes something I take on and attach to my inner world through some motivation. Like my ‘sleep life’ or my ‘eating life’ or my ‘work life’ or my ‘sex life.’ I’m involved in these things, but they are, in a way, detached from my personhood.

So a ‘prayer life’ seems like the rest of them. It’s like a garment, something I can don or doff at will, as it seems convenient, when it suits me.

A ‘life of prayer’ – now that sounds different. Internal. Personal. All-consuming. Imagine it in relation to the idea of a ‘life of sleeping’, or a ‘life of eating’, or a ‘life of work’ or a ‘life of sex’. All of them sound pretty radical, and would eventually lead to various levels of dissolution!

A ‘life of prayer’ though, would be in a class by itself. Because it’s not about being obsessed with prayer to the exclusion of all else. Rather it’s looking for God in all the places of my life, even the broken ones (especially the broken ones) so that the idea of prayer infiltrates all these other ‘lives’ that I live and builds them up.

In other words, I bring my prayer life (which is my conversation with God) into the parts of my life that seem on the surface to be ‘non-God’: work, eating, sleeping, marriage, exercise, tying my shoes, taking out the rubbish, complaining, fearing, lusting, apathy, judging, scorn.

Yeah, especially those last ones. Prayer is the only tool I have for making progress against them.

It’s not coincidental that ‘Pray without ceasing’ is sandwiched between ‘Rejoice always’ and ‘In everything give thanks.’ Being grateful and full of praise leads to a light heart. And that makes the conversation of prayer much easier.

Now, to work on ensuring it’s a two-way conversation.

1. 1 Thessalonians 5:17
2. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22
3. Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians, Tom Wright, pp 130-131