Thursday, 27 August 2015

Honest to God

The psalmist encourages us: ‘Pour out your hearts before him’ (Psalm 62:8). That’s easy enough when there is a strong sense of God in our lives, and our hearts are full of gratitude and praise, and good, positive feelings. But what of those times when ‘negative’ feelings predominate?

It is particularly important to share the emotions we consider negative with the Lord, such as disappointment (even anger) with God, bitterness at the unfairness of life, fear, desolation, grief, and confusing doubts. 

Sometimes we can make the mistake of thinking that we should only speak to the Lord of positive things and positive emotions, and so we bury the negative ones.

A sign of intimacy is when we can share our whole life, warts and all, with a true friend. The strength of the friendship shows itself in trust and openness. That’s the sort of relationship that the Lord wants with us.

Therefore, strong emotions admitted, named and shared in prayer, far from blocking our relationship with Jesus, become part of that bond and deepen it. Speaking candidly about these feelings means our prayer is genuine. 

We are letting the Lord into our real lives and his love can flow.

Honesty in prayer leads to intimacy with God. Hiding our negative emotions and always having to put on a good face weakens friendships, including our friendship with Jesus. Then, our prayer can be just going through the motions; we grow distant from the Lord and our relationship with him becomes formal rather than personal.

The first person we meet in prayer is ourselves. Authentic prayer is showing ourselves to Jesus with candid honesty. Honesty is a sign of intimacy and honesty deepens intimacy. 

The real person before the real God – that’s real prayer!

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Seasons of the Heart

Like any relationship, our friendship with the Lord, expressed in prayer, goes through different stages and seasons. So there are times when prayer comes without effort and flows with ease. We experience the Lord’s closeness and receive helpful insights when we pray. 

These times of sweetness and light cannot be permanent.

At other times, we can experience a sense of dryness and boredom when we come to pray. Our enthusiasm for prayer wanes. The Lord can seem a thousand miles away behind a brick wall. We may feel forgotten by Jesus and wonder why we bother.

But these are the very times when our love is being matured and deepened. We are moving beyond just what we can get out of prayer to really wanting to be united with the Lord and his will for our lives.

Fidelity and perseverance in prayer at this stage are vital. It may seem to us that nothing is happening, but the Spirit is working in a hidden manner and with intense love within our souls – far below the level of thought and feelings. What we experience as absence and darkness is the presence of the Lord given to us in a new and more profound manner. 

In time, and with faithfulness, there comes a gradual re-awakening of the heart – a greater conviction of how unquenchable is the Lord’s love, and a fuller awareness of all the ways he is present to us.

Our growth in prayer is measured not by experiences and warm feelings, but by fidelity and by an increasing gift of ourselves in love to the Lord and to others.

Whatever the season of the heart, we are asked to remain faithful to prayer.