“A person with hope does not get tangled up with concerns for how his wishes will be fulfilled. So, too, his prayer is not directed toward the gift, but toward the one who gives it. His prayer might still contain just as many desires, but ultimately it is not a question of having a wish come true but of expressing an unlimited faith is the giver of all good things….For the prayer of hope it is essential that there are no guarantees asked, no conditions posed, and no proofs demanded, only that you expect everything from the other without binding him. Hope is based on the premise that the other gives only what is good. Hope includes an openness by which you wait for the other to make his loving promise come true, even though you never know when, where or how this might happen.” (Henri Nouwen)
A couple of days ago I started reading ‘Serious Times‘ by James Emergy White. I should have read this book years ago but it sat languishing on my shelf. I’m so glad I have finally got round to reading it as it is a really thought-provoking and challenging book.
The following quote, on the nature of prayer, was especially helpful:
Prayer is not meant to be an experience-driven event. If it were, I know that I would be extremely frustrated and greatly discouraged. I doubt I would pray as often as I do. Instead, prayer is relationship driven. I pray because I am in a relationship with God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, and apart from prayer I would not have much of a relationship. I enter into communication, conversation and communion with God through prayer. It’s when I lay out the pieces of my life on God’s altar, and when he returns them to me knew (Ps 5:3).
I’m currently re-reading Tim Keller’s excellent book on prayer. When you end up underlining a whole page in a book, it is a pretty good indication that the author has nailed something! That happened to me on page 20. Listen to what Tim Keller had to say about the Apostle Paul’s Prayers:
It is remarkable that in all of his writings Paul’s prayers for his friends contain no appeals for changes in their circumstances. It is certain that they lived in the midst of many dangers and hardships. They faced persecution, death from disease, oppression by powerful forces, and separation from loved ones. Their existence was far less secure than ours is today. Yet in these prayers, you see not one petition for a better emperor, for protection from marauding armies, or even for bread for the next meal. Paul does not pray for the goods we would usually have near the top of our lists of requests.
Does that mean it would have been wrong to pray for such things? Not at all. As Paul knew, Jesus himself invites us to ask for our “daily bread” and that God would “deliver us from evil.” In 1 Timothy 2, Paul directs his readers to pray for peace, for good government, and for the needs of the world. In his own prayers, then, Paul is not giving us a universal model for prayer in the same way Jesus did. Rather, in them, he reveals what he asked most frequently for his friends–what he believed was the most important thing God could give them.
I’m just starting to re-read Tim Keller’s Book on Prayerand was amazed (again) and the challenging and beautifully written quote from Flannery O’Connor on page 11:
“Dear God, I cannot love Thee the way I want to. You are the slim crescent of the moon that I see and mt self is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all of the moon … what I am afraid of, dear God, is that my self shadow will grow so large that it blocks the whole moon, and that I will judge myself by the shadow that is nothing. I do not know You God because I am in the way.”
There is wonderful prayer from Eugene Peterson, to pray at the start of today. It is based upon Psalm 126:6
“those that go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves.”
Prayer: Let the rain of your Spirit fall on the dry soil of my heart, O God. Bring to blossom the seeds which have been dormant in my desert body. Restore, revive, replenish so that I may be a harvest field of “shouts of joy” for Jesus’ sake. Amen