“There is nothing the devil fears so much, or so much tries to hinder, as prayer.” ~ St. Philip Neri (via Brother Carlos)
Imagine his torment when we add the fasting. Imagine his torment in how we worship when we are fully in His presence. Or, as Oswald Chambers puts it, “If at the altar your heart imagines that loving arms are still around you, and that together, lovers as lovers, and friends as friends, can enter through this mighty gate of supreme sanctification, it is a fond dream, doomed to disillusionment.”
Our Prayer & Fast focus this week was on our “Worship” and giving thanks to Him who delivers us from the evil of our time. We looked back on the people in Nehemiah 8:6-18 and found our own worship and thankfulness dreadfully limp and pale in comparison. For most in the general population, there is no worship at all, and for others it is a dutiful hour per week. Those who seek the Chambers standard have become remnant. And we wonder why…
We had a tenant with us over this past Spring and Summer from Georgia. Rick was a Christian who would spend an hour or two every morning in the Word, which I learned meant reading his bible. Those “children of Israel” fortunate to have Nehemiah as their Godly governor, weren’t just in the Word; After standing in the square for eight long hours with heads bowed to the ground as Ezra the scribe read the first five books of the Word so that they understood, they were directed by the Word of God through Moses to be in the Word, away from the comfort of their homes in prayer booths for seven days…“to make great rejoicing”. I think its safe to say that very few of even the most faithful of us have ever come close to that level of worshiping our Father in heaven.
Being truly in the presence of the Lord requires something else from us. For so many of us, the idea of prayer and worship is about ourselves, what we get from the experience; peace of mind, good health, success, a new love, attainment of things. As Chambers writes, Abandonment of ourselves is the kernel of consecration, not presenting our gifts, but presenting ourselves without reserve…I have to learn that the aim in life is God’s, not mine. God is using me from His great personal standpoint, and all He asks of me is that I trust Him.
Who else can we really trust in a world that grows crazier by the minute? And if we were to be perfectly honest with ourselves, we would admit that every last bit of the craziness is the result of our having become too full of ourselves…leaving very little room for Him, if any at all. I tell you that it is beyond amazing how our lives begin to blossom and grow when we reverse the trend. We don’t have to stand for eight hours or live in a booth for eight days to be in the presence of the Lord. In the instant of my thought, I am there. The only trick is to increase the instants I am there for Him. In my car…in my office…in my room…in my day.
You may recall my exchange with Becca, the editor of Dirt Magazine back in the August 4th SMTU. Becca, I’m very pleased to say, published my poem “True Dirt” along with a very fair summary of our exchange, in the September/October issue. God used me to point out to Becca that He was missing from the pages of a magazine dedicated to the very fruits, labors, and laborers of His own garden! And now again, in this week, just days before Yom Kippur, He is using me again…
The Who & Why (Prayer for Yom Kippur & tribute to Leonard Cohen)
Perched up on this garden wall, with skies above the hills below… Who sees the common ebb and flow, the who that come, and where they go? Who brought the rain and summer train to steam across the western plain… for eastern gain who looks above to thank the dove for songs that bring the morning love? Who feels our children’s yearning cry, starved for the answer to the question why? Who minds the reap, and fields the sow before each winter’s coming snow? Who by Fire and Who by Rain to live and die, and live again, and never know… The Who and Why? ~ CM 10/5
Listen to the late great Leonard Cohen’s song, Who by Fire here.
I had only just emailed my song “Wonder Why” to Becca the day before. What is the Word, if not about us throughout all time, through Judges and Kings, waking up and falling back asleep over and over again? These things and so much more come to us when we are able to find ourselves In the Presence of the Lord.