Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God

Tim Keller wrote a book, titled Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God.

In an interview with Tony Reinke of desiringGod.org, he answers “10 Questions on Prayer“.

Below is a lightly edited transcript of the conversation . I was struck that the conversation begins with the question of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “the agony of prayerlessness.”


Question 1: Prayerlessness

Among Christians today, how widespread is prayerlessness — and what does that reveal about our spiritual health?

We know from empirical secular studies that everyone in our Western society today has less solitude. There is less and less of our days or our months or our weeks in which we are unplugged, when we are not listening to something or talking to somebody or texting. This is due to the pervasiveness of social media, the Internet, and various sorts of electronic devices. In the past, most people couldn’t avoid solitude. But now there isn’t any.

This is anecdotal, but everybody I talk to seems so busy, and is communicating so incessantly, and around the clock, that I do think there is more and more prayerlessness. There is less and less time where people go into a solitary place to pray. And I am sure that we are more prayerless than we have been in the past, and that says our spiritual health is in freefall.

For the rest of the interview, see “10 Questions on Prayer with Timothy Keller.”

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The Presence of God

Today’s offering comes from the “spiritual maxims” of Brother Lawrence – a 17th Century kitchen help in a monastery, whose letters and maxims have survived the centuries:

The holiest, most common, most necessary practice in the spiritual life is the presence of God, that is to take delight in and become accustomed to His divine company, speaking humble and talking loving with Him at all times, at every moment, without rule or system and especially in times of temptation, suffering, spiritual aridity, disgust and even of unfaithfulness and sin.

We must continually work hard so that each of our actions is a way of carrying on little conversations with God, not in any carefully prepared way but as it comes from the purity and simplicity of heart.

We must carry out all our actions with care and with wisdom without the impetuosity and precipitancy of a distraught  mind; it is necessary to work peacefully, tranquilly and lovingly with God, begging Him to accept our work, and by this continually mindfulness of God we shall crush the head of the devil and cause his weapons to fall from his hands.

During our work and other activities, during our spiritual reading and writing even more so during our formal devotions and spoken prayers we should stop as often as we can, for a moment to adore God from the bottom our our hearts, to savour Him, by stealth as it were, as He passes by.  Since you know God is with you in all your actions, that He is in the deepest recesses of your soul, why not, from time to time, leave off your external activities and even your spoken prayers to adore Him inwardly, to praise Him, to petition Him, to offer Him your heart and give Him thanks?


For more, let me encourage you to read the collection of conversations, letters, and maxims in what is known as “The Practice of the Presence of God.”

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Prayer as Communion

Communion, Louise Boyce

While Jesus certainly prayed vocally both in private and public, these utterances did not encompass the fullness of his relationship with his Father. A fuller reading of the Gospels shows that Jesus lived in constant communion with the Father even when no words were used. This fuller understanding of prayer is often perplexing to those who have only known prayer as communication.

Skye Jatheni  in “with“.

More and more have I come to understand scripture’s invitation to “pray without ceasing” as communion with God – – as “practicing the presence of God” as Brother Lawrence would put it.

In Skye Jatheni’s wonderful little book, “with: Reimagining the way you relate to God“, he elaborates different postures we can take toward God: life under God, life over God, life from God, and life for God. All these postures embody a misunderstanding of who God is and what the Christian life is all about.

In elaborating on “life with God” he writes that the goal of life is God Himself – not anything else we can extract, receive, serve, or perform. God is the treasure. Therefore he writes:

Coming to see prayer as communion and not just communication changes its place in our Christian life. If God is truly our treasure, and if we have faith that through Christ we have been united with him, then prayer ceases to be a Christian’s duty and becomes our joy because it is how we experience our treasure in the now.

The Lord’s Supper, Louise Boyce

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The Mystery of Friendship

artmartieau.com

Friendship and love should be the safe regions where your unknown selves can come out and play. Instead of holding your friend or beloved limited within the neat cage of frightened identity, love should liberate both of you to celebrate the festival of complexity within you.

John O’Donohue writes extensively on what it means to be a friend – what it means to belong. Quoting Swiss writer Max Frisch describing the mystery of friendship, he writes:

It is remarkable that in relation to the one we love we are least able to declare how he is. We simply love him. This is exactly what love is. The wonder of love is that it holds us in the flow of that which is alive; it maintains us in the readiness to follow this person in all his possible unfolding. We know that every person feels transfigured and unfolded when we love him… we will never be finished with the one that we love as long as we love him and because we love him. (O’Donohue’s translation).

Source: Eternal Echoes by John O-Donohue


Isn’t it about time to tell your friends what they mean to you?

For more see: “Friendship“.

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Childhood Interview

Have a conversation with your children; consider some questions you’d want to ask but were afraid.  It is very likely your adult children will be eager to [finally] have this conversation.

Inspiration:

In the Summer of 2018 I took a course on Child Theology at Regent College with Dr. James M. Houston, It inspired me to put together a series of questions to ask my adult children. Since I had not had a chance to do this with either of my parents I was eager to start a conversation of things left unsaid, of topics not spoken:

Encouragement:

Let me encourage you, if you are a parent of a certain age, and if you have adult children near or estranged, to start a conversation of healing.  There is nothing particularly special about these questions – they just started us off:

Questions:

  • What is your first memory as a child?
  • What is your most painful memory as a child?
  • What is your best memory as a child?
  • What do you wish did not happen to you as a child?
  • What did you need – but didn’t get as a child?
  • How would you describe your childhood?
  • What would you like to say about your childhood:
      • to your parents?
      • to God?
  • How does your childhood inform:
      • your adulthood?
      • your parenthood?
      • your spiritual journey?
      • your marriage?

Let me know how it goes; and let me know if you came up with some other/better questions.

Grace to you as you continue to relate to your children over the ages.

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A Blessing of Presence

Woven Heart from Tangled String, Videoblocks.com

A Blessing of Presence  by John O’Donohue

May you awaken to the mystery of being here and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence [longing for the divine].

May you have joy and peace in the temple of your senses [the echo of God longing for you].

May you receive great encouragement when new frontiers beckon.

May you respond to the call of your gift and find the courage to follow its path.

May the flame of anger free you from falsity.

May warmth of heart keep you presence aflame and may anxiety never linger about you.

May your outer dignity mirror your inner dignity of soul.

May you take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.

May you be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul [the living imprint of divine desire].

May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart wonder.

From: Eternal Echoes: Celtic Reflections on our Yearning to Belong


Though the Blessing is intact as is, I included bracketed additions based on the direct wording from my reading of O’Donohue’s chapter on “Presence.”

May you sense God’s presence woven around your heart of wonder – for “the wonderful awe of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  Proverbs 9:10.

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To Honour with Friendship

Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers: Friends. Photo credit: Ken Blaze, USA Today Sports

If you look, you may find insight anywhere.  Recently Brian Jones with 247 Sports caught my attention with is article, “Aaron Rodgers considers Brett Favre a close friend.” What do very successful football players have to reveal about the curriculum of the spiritual life? For one thing, insight on friendship:

“Green Bay Packers fans know that when Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers were playing together, there was some tension. Rodgers was drafted by the Packers No. 24 overall in 2005 and Favre was not ready to let go of the starting position. The drafting of Rodgers led to him taking over in 2008 and Favre ended up being traded to the New York Jets.

But now that time has passed and Favre is now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it looks like the relationship between Favre and Rodgers is very strong. Rodgers was recently on the Mike Tirico Podcast and he talked about his friendship with the three-time MVP:

“Now I consider him a close friend,” Rodgers said. “We talk a bunch. I went down and visited with him for a couple of days in the offseason and that has really meant a lot to me to find that friendship with Brett again and honor him as a friend and former teammate.”

Notice the choice of words Rodgers uses; how it meant a lot to him to find this friendship and to honour Brett as a friend.  Honour was his verb of choice in befriending his one time competitor, rival, and mentor. Honour is a good word; this is what we do when we give friendship that has cost us something – that has forced us to see something we couldn’t see if we didn’t have this friendship.

Rodgers went on to say that he understands what Favre was going through at the time because he was still playing at a high level. 

“They drafted this young kid from California,” Rodgers said. “He’s 36 turning 37, not ready to retire – the strains that put on our relationship, now we can look back and I think we can have a better appreciation for each other, for me understanding what he was going through, for him understanding what it was like to be 21 and playing with one of your idols. It’s been great to make up for lost time with Brett because he meant a lot for me in my development as a player.”

Make up for lost time: that’s what friendship does.


Is there someone in your life with whom it’s time to make up for lost time?

Don’t wait too long; your moment is now.

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