By Stephen Davey
"This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."
I read a gripping story of a godly old man whose days were coming to an end. A priest went to visit him in his hospital room and noticed an empty chair beside the man's bed. He asked, "Have you had a visitor?" The man replied, "No, I haven't had a visitor. But when I became a Christian as a youth, someone told me that praying was like talking to your very best friend. When I heard that, I decided to pull up an empty chair beside me every day and invite Christ to sit and talk with me. And I just finished my conversation with the Lord."
After the man passed away, his daughter wrote of her visit to the hospital room. She said of her father:
"He seemed content, so I left him for a few hours. When I returned, I knew that he had gone to be with the Lord. But the interesting thing was that his head was not resting on his pillow. His body had turned and his head was resting on the seat of an empty hair that had been pulled up close to his bed."
Isn't that a remarkable picture? We, who are weak and frail like this dying man, have been given the opportunity to rest our head on the loving, omnipotent breast of God. Death is only a continuation of the pursuit we begin in this life to know God. That is why prayer is a taste of heaven on earth. God, in His humility and love toward us, stepped down from His heavenly throne and seated Himself upon the chair of our heart where we can intimately and personally converse with Him.
George Macdonald, the Scottish pastor who had a profound impact on C. S. Lewis, illustrated this beautifully when he said:
"I used to play a game with my two children when they were young. I would clutch some pennies in my hand and allow them to pry open my fingers to get the coins. My children would sit in my lap and work feverishly to get the money. Once they captured the coins, they would scream with delight and jump down to treasure their prize. I loved having my youngsters laugh and play while sitting on my lap—the pennies were insignificant."
Macdonald went on to apply this truth: "While God, in His grace, does give good gifts to His children, He offers us more than that . . . He offers us Himself. Those who are merely satisfied with the trinkets in the Father's hands miss the best reward of prayer—the reward of communicating and communing with the God of the universe."
As we go to God in prayer, let's remember that the greatest thrill in praying to Him is not in seeing how He will answer our petitions, nor in discovering what trinkets He might be holding in His all-powerful hand. The greatest privilege is actually being able to have a conversation with God Himself!
Perhaps prayer will become a personal conversation . . . if you pull up an empty chair.
Prayer Point: Go ahead—pull up a chair beside you right now and tell God how grateful you are for His friendship. Spend a few moments talking with Him: tell Him your struggles, your joys, your thoughts; ask Him your questions; thank Him for allowing you to have a conversation with Him, much less a personal relationship with the Lord of all the universe.
Extra Refreshment: Read John 17
When you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place… —Matthew 6:6
The primary thought in the area of religion is— keep your eyes on God, not on people. Your motivation should not be the desire to be known as a praying person. Find an inner room in which to pray where no one even knows you are praying, shut the door, and talk to God in secret. Have no motivation other than to know your Father in heaven. It is impossible to carry on your life as a disciple without definite times of secret prayer.
“When you pray, do not use vain repetitions…” (Matthew 6:7). God does not hear us because we pray earnestly— He hears us solely on the basis of redemption. God is never impressed by our earnestness. Prayer is not simply getting things from God— that is only the most elementary kind of prayer. Prayer is coming into perfect fellowship and oneness with God. If the Son of God has been formed in us through regeneration (see Galatians 4:19), then He will continue to press on beyond our common sense and will change our attitude about the things for which we pray.
“Everyone who asks receives…” (Matthew 7:8). We pray religious nonsense without even involving our will, and then we say that God did not answer— but in reality we have never asked for anything. Jesus said, “…you will ask what you desire…” (John 15:7). Asking means that our will must be involved. Whenever Jesus talked about prayer, He spoke with wonderful childlike simplicity. Then we respond with our critical attitude, saying, “Yes, but even Jesus said that we must ask.” But remember that we have to ask things of God that are in keeping with the God whom Jesus Christ revealed.
My Utmost for His Highest
Daily devotionals by Oswald Chambers
. . . I am with you to deliver you,’ says the Lord --Jeremiah 1:8
God promised Jeremiah that He would deliver him personally— “. . . your life shall be as a prize to you . . .” (Jeremiah 39:18). That is all God promises His children. Wherever God sends us, He will guard our lives. Our personal property and possessions are to be a matter of indifference to us, and our hold on these things should be very loose. If this is not the case, we will have panic, heartache, and distress. Having the proper outlook is evidence of the deeply rooted belief in the overshadowing of God’s personal deliverance.
The Sermon on the Mount indicates that when we are on a mission for Jesus Christ, there is no time to stand up for ourselves. Jesus says, in effect, “Don’t worry about whether or not you are being treated justly.” Looking for justice is actually a sign that we have been diverted from our devotion to Him. Never look for justice in this world, but never cease to give it. If we look for justice, we will only begin to complain and to indulge ourselves in the discontent of self-pity, as if to say, “Why should I be treated like this?” If we are devoted to Jesus Christ, we have nothing to do with what we encounter, whether it is just or unjust. In essence, Jesus says, “Continue steadily on with what I have told you to do, and I will guard your life. If you try to guard it yourself, you remove yourself from My deliverance.” Even the most devout among us become atheistic in this regard— we do not believe Him. We put our common sense on the throne and then attach God’s name to it. We do lean to our own understanding, instead of trusting God with all our hearts (see Proverbs 3:5-6).
The First Gaze
Monday, June 30, 2014
I am just like you. My immediate response to most situations is with reactions of attachment, defensiveness, judgment, control, and analysis. I am better at calculating than contemplating.
Let’s admit that we all start there. The False Self seems to have the “first gaze” at almost everything.
The first gaze is seldom compassionate. It is too busy weighing and feeling itself: “How will this affect me?” or “How can I get back in control of this situation?” This leads us to an implosion, a self-preoccupation that cannot enter into communion with the other or the moment. In other words, we first feel our feelings before we can relate to the situation and emotion of the other. Only after God has taught us how to live “undefended,” can we immediately stand with and for the other, and in the present moment. It takes lots of practice.
On my better days, when I am “open, undefended, and immediately present,” as Gerald May says, I can sometimes begin with a contemplative mind and heart. Often I can get there later and even end there, but it is usually a second gaze. The True Self seems to always be ridden and blinded by the defensive needs of the False Self. It is an hour-by-hour battle, at least for me. I can see why all spiritual traditions insist on daily prayer, in fact, morning, midday, evening, and before we go to bed, too! Otherwise, I can assume that I am back in the cruise control of small and personal self-interest, the pitiable and fragile “Richard self.”
Adapted from “Contemplation and Compassion: The Second Gaze”
(article by Fr. Richard available free on CAC website)
Gateway to Silence:
May I see with eyes of compassion.
“Do not be afraid.” We have read these words in the bible many times. We sing it in our songs. We hear our family and friends tell us not to worry. But we go on our fearful way, thinking our worry will solve the problem and then our fears will be gone with the wind.
We know in our hearts that Jesus is taking care of us. But why can't we get our thoughts to go along with our hearts? Why should that be hard? And the answer is in our humanity. Our weakness. We are tempted away from God and fall so easily into being lost in our questions. So we spend our time worrying, wasting our time and days. Worrying doesn't help anything, it just takes us away from Jesus. Worrying takes us out of the presence of God in the now and leads us nowhere.
I want you to remember something. Jesus is holding your hand. Just like Isaiah 41:13 says, 'I am holding you by your right hand – I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, do not be afraid. I am here to help you.'
Those are the words we need to live by. God is with us at all times, holding our hand. When we are worrying, we are letting go of Jesus' hand and saying, “Hold on Jesus. I am going to sit here alone for awhile. I need to figure this out.” Why would we want to make the choice to let go of Jesus' hand? Why would we want to tell Jesus to hang on a minute, while we worry about something we cannot change at that moment. Why would we let go of the loving hand of Jesus.
He has a wonderful plan for us. Part of that plan is allowing our Father to take care of us, allowing Him to hold us by the hand. In our most difficult times, when we do not feel God's presence and feel abandoned, those are the moments we need to hold on fast. Don't let go! Talk with Jesus, pray with Jesus and trust in Jesus. “Do not be afraid.”
By: Mary Maddox
Prayerful Path/Mary Maddox