Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Answering Place

I am teaching a book right now to the rehab ladies called "Knowing God: Making God the Main Thing in Your Life." It's by Kimberly Reisman and ... in my humble opinion ... it is quite excellent. This is the second time I've taught this book, possibly the third. And as I read each chapter again, I keep learning new stuff.


Last week we talked about prayer ... the invisible force in our lives. One of the phrases Reisman used to refer to prayer is our "answering place."

I like that.

I don't know why prayer makes such a difference, but it does. And I don't know why I sometimes resist it, but I do.

To be an answering place, prayer has to be viewed and understood as that sacred, so-near-yet-so-far place where we experience the Divine presence. Finding your way into that presence is nothing short of miraculous. I can't navigate my way to it per se ... I just seem to land there (but not always). I do know that there are 2 things that most keep me from that Divine destination. One is fatigue; the other is anxiety.

I can't tell you how many times my prayers have taken on a surreal quality, with me drifting into all sorts of images and dialogues and scenarios with people I don't even know. No, I am not having visions. I am dreaming. In those moments of oppressive fatigue, I simply drift off to sleep in mid sentence. When I become "aware" that I am on the launchpad of rem, I seem to startle back awake again. And do I then get up and go to sleep, obeying my mind and body? No, of course not. I try again, only to zoom right back to dream land, some strange, psychedelic dream.

Anxiety keeps me from God's presence as well, which is sort of ironic when you consider the peace we experience in his presence; and our anxiety is certainly a testimony to our need for peace. It's as if my mind simply will not be still. I "think" I am praying, but before I know it, I am in the land of instant reply or fast forward. Instant reply is me processing again and again a particular incident. Maybe it was today, maybe it was a week ago, maybe it was 20 years ago. But there it is, fresh in my mind, and I seem to be watching it from every possible angle with morbid fascination. Fast forward is probably worse. It's me taking God out of the "yet to be" aspects of prayer and allowing myself to direct my future. I think of something and then play it out in vivid, sometimes ridiculous detail ... things that will simply never be.

As I read over the writing above, I have to either chuckle at myself or consider being committed. Since I am learning to give myself a break, I will laugh, surely as God is laughing, and gently chastise myself for repeatedly falling victim to instant reply and fast forward.

Now about that "yet to be" aspect of prayer ... this is me and God dreaming together; dreaming big, impossible, outrageous thoughts (but this time, it is God's kind of outrageous). I used to really rush through this type of prayer, but now I find a great deal of enjoyment in hitting the slow motion button. I watch with wide-eyed fascination as God puts pictures in front of me of my ambition-driven "what-ifs." I practice "manifesting" things -- speaking them into existence. Only I don't mean wishful manifestation, like, if I say this loud enough and fast enough, maybe, maybe, maybe, oh pretty please God, it just may come to pass. No, it is as if there is actual power behind my words ... as if they are sort of speaking themselves.

Again, I am either right-on or crazy. (I won't phrase this as a question, because I know better than to ask a question I don't want to know the answer to.)

The last concept that I want to explore here from the study with the rehab ladies and my own personal prayer practices is this mind-blowing promise by Jesus that anything we ask in his name, we will be granted. I am convinced there are so many people who abuse this scripture (and some of them are on television). Invoking the name of Jesus is not magical fairy dust. No, it is more an assumption; that the very thing we are praying for, if we dare pray in the name of Jesus, we are speaking on his behalf. (I don't like the way I am phrasing this.) It's as if we are praying for the things that God would want for our lives, our family, our world; and being careful not to pray for things that he certainly would not want for our lives, our family, our world. Now I am a big proponent of total honesty with God. So I'm not suggesting that we can't bring things to God in moments of total honesty that, in our minds at least, need to be said. I'm just saying that these kinds of things are unlikely to come to pass through the transforming power and energy of the Divine. The Bible teaches that God will give us the desires of our heart, but is it possible that this is most likely when we have totally given our heart over to the Divine?

Prayer is puzzling. It is mysterious. It is awe-inspiring. It is fascinating. There is more to it than my finite mind can grasp, but I like it. It is a place where God and I intersect, sometimes in a mind-blowing way; other times in a gentle, feathery whisper. It is my answering place.

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