Make the most of the view

Try to imagine our sensory experience after we’ve been “raised in glory” . While the images might be exciting, they are probably small and bland compared to what is actually waiting for us. If the glory of the Eternal Day exposure to Jesus was shown to us now, the overload would blow our human circuitry. And yet, the Lord does want us to see him in this day, not just wait for that one. So he gives us “eyes of the heart”,* a Spirit-managed ability to see what he is like. We don’t get the full picture of that glory all at once, but he keeps adding light for more depth and detail of his beauty… long as we keep wanting to see him. All of life – not just the ‘religious’ times and activities – is an arena for seeing and admiring something about the Lord. The likelihood of that happening in the day’s busyness grows when we train the eyes of the heart to do it in our fixed prayer times.

Our inner eyes are God’s gift for taking in the view of him. And the clearest way to do that is to notice what he says about himself. Not just reading Scripture, but SEEING the truth carried in the words. I unpack this more in the book Shaped for Prayer Enjoyment, Chapter Two – A View to Fascinate the Pray-er, and Chapter Nine – Expanding Prayer Language.

Last week, a group of us were praying for someone seriously ill. Verses about the Lord’s power to heal flowed, and that was good. But when we slowed down to see the truth about him carried in the words we were quoting, the praying shifted. We moved from knowing that he heals to seeing his beauty as Healer. The seeing fed admiration of him, and admiration strengthened passion for him to show his glory as Healer. We went away having asked, but more than that, having taken in a fresh seeing of the Lord. When we work it into our fixed prayer times, the seeing of him (and our response) is more likely to keep surfacing throughout our day.

None of us (as far as I know) lives in monastic seclusion where, every couple of hours, a bell calls us to assemble and re-center on the Lord. I mentioned in the previous post how, on life’s busy highway, it’s easy to ‘forget’ the truth of God’s presence in a side-street. Our challenge is to not divorce life from awareness of Presence, but to make seeing and responding to him the frame for living. It’s helpful to have ‘bells’ through the day that call us to a quick review of how we’re doing and to refocus us. Some choose to set regular alerts on their mobile phones. It might not be possible to drop everything when the alarm sounds and take time out, but the alert does break into the highway’s distracting noise and invites the heart to see the Lord in the busyness. However, I prefer making association points, where certain activities become the bell(s) in the day.  An association point can be a particular mealtime, mid-morning coffee, bathroom break, boarding a train, starting a vehicle, changing a diaper, relaxing in a particular chair, etc. The plan is to associate one or more of our regular activities or places with an awareness of the Lord’s presence and a response (the view of him is often a replay of what was seen in a fixed prayer time). Initially the association must be planned and managed, but soon the discipline becomes a habit, a way of life in which the association points become triggers for centering on the Lord. Try it, and let me know if it helps you make the most of the view, seeing the Lord not only in the fixed prayer times but also through the busy day.

Right seeing, restful heart

Years ago Sandra and I were at a retreat center in Malaysia for a conference. Each morning a visitor would sit outside the glass doors of the prayer room and listen to the praying. We greeted him, tried to make conversation, but got zero response. We later learned why. The man was on a spiritual pilgrimage that included a vow of silence.

Bangkok traffic – freerangestock

Seclusion and silence are uncommon disciplines in today’s life in the fast lane. Could we benefit from occasionally leaving the busy highway to be quiet and alone, with no agenda other than to ponder the Lord and hear his voice? Absolutely. But the bigger challenge is learning to quieten our inner noise while still on the highway. The sights, sounds and circumstances we are exposed to in a ‘normal’ day can drag our hearts from one end of the feelings-spectrum to the other, and keep our minds racing with activity. The end of the work day doesn’t necessarily mean an end to inner noise. We’ve become so accustomed to living with noise that we fill our recreation times with lots more of it through social media and entertainment. Unrest becomes the order of the day…. unless we plan a different journey, one in which we learn right seeing.

We know the Lord is with us constantly, but unless we practice seeing him the truth makes little difference to our journey. A few days ago someone asked me what area of prayer I want to grow in most. This is it – the Acts 2:25* prayer lifestyle, where seeing the Lord (and responding) is worked into the being and doing of each day…..more and more.

Awareness of the Lord’s constant presence is a big comfort, but the truth has a much larger lifestyle impact. All of life and work, even the simple routines of sitting down to a snack or pouring a coffee, are done in and unto him.* Our big learning challenge is to see him in the day’s chaotic journey, not just at the breakfast start or bedtime end.

The Present One wants to be our primary view; to be seen at all times. By default, our seeing tends to focus on the bustle of this moment, the one we passed through or the one we’re heading for. The activities and issues on the highway fill our awareness, and the truth of Presence is inadvertently parked in a side-street, often forgotten until our next scheduled prayer time or church meeting. If we are to quieten (or filter) our inner noise for a journey in rest, the seeing of the Lord must become the frame for doing life. The Colossians chapter three call to anchor the heart and mind “above”*(on Christ) wasn’t written to an isolated group of monastics, but to ordinary men and women busy with daily life and work. It was written with us in mind.

The next post: more about right seeing, and how association points can help us in the prayer growth journey.

*I saw the Lord always before me (from Ps 16:8)  *1 Cor 10:31, Col 3:23   *Col 3:1-3

Beyond the Christmas shake

It was Christmas season and the prayer meeting in a friend’s home was about to start. But I was distracted. A picture had popped up on my mental screen: an ornament, a small glass ball containing a snowy landscape. When the ball was shaken, the white stuff swirled up and created a magical scene of falling snow. But it didn’t last long – which is exactly the way it was designed. For more magic it had to be shaken again and again. It turned out that the picture wasn’t a distraction but a focus for the praying: the urge to live beyond the occasional shake; the welcoming of a God-given shaping that brings lasting changes to life’s landscape.

Once again the Christmas ball is being shaken to stir up an image of seasonal magic and the flurry of celebration. This is a time when the heart of the Church should be reaching, more than ever, for a deeper experience of God-with-us. The Immanuel truth is the greatest miracle in history, one that completely redresses our living. Christ became man to redeem us; he rescued us so we can live with him. That starts now not in the future. The immense God, at home in our tiny lives…. Wow!! We live every second Coram Deo (before the face of God); his presence makes the ordinary day extraordinary. Life becomes a journey of learning to enjoy the Lord from close-up, and prayer is at the core. Prayer is a lifestyle response to his presence, while the awareness of his presence feeds prayer enjoyment. Presence and prayer are inseparable constants.

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (John 14:23)

Before he left them, Jesus whet his disciples’ appetites by telling them of the plan he was looking forward to, one that would cost his life. Then the risen Lord would, in Spirit, come live with his followers. That Immanuel miracle is happening now, a present-moment enjoyment, and the One who planned it wants us to participate in it… .more and more.

The Christmas shake will come and go, but encounters with the Immanuel truth leave us marked and changed. Whatever our level of experience of God-with-us, there is always much more. The journey we’ve been given is as endless as the size of God. And he will keep taking us beyond current boundaries, as long as we keep welcoming his (sometimes uncomfortable or painful) shaping in Love.

More on the satisfying prayer meeting

The previous blog (What makes a satisfying prayer meeting?) touched on the importance of AGREEING with the Lord together. It’s much easier to grow agreement with each other in a prayer group when all present put high value on lining up with the Lord’s thoughts on whatever is being prayed.

Look at this interesting record about Moses’ prayer times (emphases mine).

 “When Moses entered the tent of meeting to SPEAK with the Lord, he HEARD THE VOICE speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the atonement cover on the ark of the covenant law. In this way the Lord SPOKE to him” (Numbers 7:89)

This isn’t a record of one particular prayer session, but of a pattern. Moses would go into the Tent to pray. By this time he had learned that prayer is an exchange, not a monologue, and that God is the one best qualified to be the Lead Speaker. He had things he wanted to talk to God about, but, more importantly, God had things to say to him. So for Moses, it was a time for hearing the voice, not just being a voice.

Moses would probably feel uncomfortable in many of today’s prayer meetings (and I’m sure we wouldn’t be totally comfortable hosting a man whose face radiated a fresh encounter with Glory). Prayer times today are usually not exchanges; they are characterized by us voicing more than hearing. So, rather than the Lord being the Lead Speaker, he is the main Listener. By removing (or reducing) the practice of hearing his voice, we dial down our ability to AGREE with him on the things being prayed.

Why do we cut the prayer encounter in half? Why do we so often major on being a voice and leave out the part where we hear the voice?

I think it’s because we remove praying from the frame of Presence. Not doctrinally, but in practice.

When Moses stepped into the Tent, beyond the veil, and stood beside the mercy seat in the penetrating but veiled brilliance of the Shekinah, I suspect he didn’t lean lazily against a cherub wing and begin talking. Wonder, awe, and holy fear probably left him bowed low in the close-up encounter with “I AM”. He had things to say, but nothing so urgent that he would (or could) grab the role of Lead Speaker for himself. In the Presence, it was right that he hear the voice.

Is it because we are too matter-of-fact about the Presence of God? Or perhaps we ‘forget’ that we actually believe he is present? Present to not simply listen, but to speak. So that by hearing the voice we are able to shape ours to AGREE with him. And so, be part of another satisfying prayer session, satisfying to the Lord and to us.