Sunday, 28 July 2019
Heart Soul Mind Strength Mercy
I wonder if you ever wonder how wonderfully amazing and limitless you are?
Science tells us if we leave hydrogen gas alone for 13 billion years it will become giraffes rose bushes and humans. But to have a human body means before it was even conceived, your body was too tiny for a human to see, but you wanted human life so much, you won a race against 200 - 250 million competitors.
These sperm cells were all flushed down the toilet instead of you because you were too fast, too strong, too agile, too determined, you repeatedly pushed on an egg that chose to open up to become your body. How badly you must have wanted humanity, to be chosen. But do you ever want eternal life that badly?
That means to die to self and bring forth wings and feathers like an angel, soar higher still, to what no human can imagine, and be that. How badly do you want that? As much as you wanted human life? As much as Jesus, in whom God became human so humans could become God? Becoming human took single mindedness, becoming God takes single minded prayerfulness. Do we bother?
St Paul tells us to in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, 'Pray without ceasing'. Why? What is it? Do you even think God even answers prayer? No, says James, Jesus brother, in chapter 4 verse 3 of his letter,. “When you ask,” he says, “you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives. What is a wrong motive for prayer?
A childish notion says the harder you squeeze your hands, the tighter you shut your eyes, the better God hears your wish list. Even adults have this idea. Like the student who sits an exam, but the professor requires him to hand in a form saying he has not sought outside help. So the student admits that he prayed, and the professor in turn asks to see his exam paper. On reading it, the professor says no, don’t worry, it’s OK, you definitely did not receive any help.
If the motive for prayer is to pass our exam, fix our problem, our finance, our job, our children, our marriage, our health, make life easier, more comfortable, we are seeking something from God, not seeking God. We are not greeting God at all, we are treating God like a vending machine. So the ancients didn’t say; “How are you?” they said; “How is your prayer?” Prayer was a sign of spiritual life. As the body has breath, so it lives; and if the breathing stops, that body comes to an end, so with a spiritually powered body, a soul. If there is prayer, the soul lives; if not, it doesn’t. No prayer, no soul. No soul, no God, no shifting the centre of life from me consciousness to God surrender. If we are asking for one thing after another, we do the opposite. The issue of prayer is not prayer; the issue of prayer is God. And if we are not praying, we are forcing a gap between us and God. To live without prayer is to live without a soul. Therefore, not to pray is not to be fully human. It is to want something else more.
When Jesus says; “Everyone who asks receives, everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door is opened,” he means how badly do you want to be God? He is not talking about opening the door at the bottom of a vending machine, as if we tell God what we want and expect to get it.
Vending machines are great until they take your money but give you something you don’t want. Then you start complaining. The door Jesus wants us to open is not a door below a vending machine, it is the door to God perception within us. Through it isn’t something for us, through it is God. So, prayer is not begging. It is concentration and surrender. If we want to live, we take it seriously, not like someone who came to me in an old persons’ home to ask if I prayed for the lottery numbers. Prayer is not making life more comfortable.
Jesus prayed for a trial to pass and was crucified the following afternoon. But don’t be scared either. I will come back to that. God is not an object we relate to through prayer, but the subject of experiencing it. We’re not telling God something God does not know. We are not reminding God we exist, but reminding ourselves who God is, has been, and will be. God does not give us any answers, God is the answer; in our soul. God is presence, love, beauty, generosity, compassion, forgiveness, wisdom, justice, mercy, not I, me, mine.
Jesus tells us that in Luke 11, 1-13, he says if you know how to give your children good things how much more will the heavenly Father give you the Holy Spirit. You are children of the living God. So when you pray, if you do, say: 'Father, hallowed be your name.’ Meaning what?
Meaning if we hallow God's, we no longer have to hallow our own names, we are free to know God the way Jesus did, as Abba, Daddy – intimate, loving, caring One, who fills divine children, holy sons and daughters, with his own very Self. That’s a given. Before we even have a thought or say a word, our life, our being, comes from One without whom we are as good as dead.
Jesus says “When you pray, say: Your Kingdom come.’ What does he mean by that? God’s dream in this world, God’s kingdom, comes because if we pray “your kingdom come” it means “my kingdom go.” In letting go of our kingdom we entrust ourselves to God in surrender. That means we naturally and un-self-consciously feed the hungry, clothe the naked, speak justice for the oppressed, and tend the sick because it is no longer about us and what we will get out of it.
Jesus says “When you pray, say: Give us each day our daily bread.’ What does he mean by that? He means we think we are me-sufficient, but if every day me acknowledges God’s sustenance, me sufficiency dies.
Jesus says “When you pray, say: Forgive us our sins, as we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.’ What does he mean by that? He means if we think it is not for us to forgive, we do not allow our own forgiveness, which is our freedom. Our relationship with God is visible in how we relate to others. If we forgive neighbours, friends, family, enemies, we know they are as much God’s children as we, we mirror each other, forgiveness polishes this mirror.
Jesus says “When you pray, say: And do not bring us to the time of trial.’ What does he mean by that? As I said earlier, Jesus prayed for a trial to pass and was crucified the next afternoon. So, we are to live with our eyes wide open to trial, knowing that apart from God every trial, temptation, or stumbling block is more than we can handle. With God, it is a way for us to know more resurrection greatness, here, now, and here-after, and to be more than conquerers, as the gospel says we really are.
So now, how badly do you want God? Perhaps the greatest difficulty with prayer is that we don’t want really want God, we want something from God. That is not prayer according to Jesus' brother James, it is just wanting God to change our circumstances, but God changes us. God’s self-giving sustains, nourishes, strengthens, empowers, emboldens, and enables us to face the circumstances of life. If we only want to offer coins and push a button on a vending machine to have our desires met, 2nd Peter chapter 1 verse 4 says; “God has given us precious and very great promises, so that we may escape the corruption in the world due to desire, and participate in the divine nature.”
Divine nature is not about testing God, but like Jesus in the wilderness, seeking God by refusing to use God to satisfy greed or thirst for power, and instead of testing God, as 'the devil' advises him, becoming God. So, when a disciple says to Jesus, “Teach us to pray,” as in Luke 11, 1-13 we can be pretty sure the disciple is asking for more than words. The disciple has seen the effect of prayer, seen Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening, concentrating, heard Jesus say Mary has chosen the better part just by being fully present. That prayer is more than doing a chore like Martha was, or just turning up to a preferred building.
Childish prayer tries to align God with childish concerns, and Jesus is teaching us to align ourselves with God’s concerns. That does not mean God is unconcerned, but the concerns of our lives work out as we surrender to God’s life. Jesus is calling us to a place of being with God not of taking from God.
To conclude then, life didn’t start with the birth of our physical bodies and it won’t end with the death of the same. Eternal life is having a soul, and it really does have to be wanted cease-less-ley, because your soul in God’s image struggles to be born as much as your tiny body struggled to beat off 250 million competitor sperms. Freedom is the best argument for the struggle of prayer. Pray if you want freedom. If there is prayer, there is freedom.
There is a prayer I say each morning, it starts, One thing I have asked of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord, all the days of my life; to behold the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple. Scripture tells us our body is God’s temple, we come to know the Holy One is born in it. One within and behind the whole universe is you. Do you seek God with all your heart? Do you seek God with all your soul? Do you seek God with all your mind? Do you seek God with all your strength? Amen, Lord have mercy.