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.