Thoughts on prayer

I'm interested in other people's experiences and thoughts about prayer, but I don't know if many other people still visit here.

As I have journeyed with God, prayer has seemed more and more central to everything else. I struggle for words to describe what goes on. At its heart I see prayer as relationship with God. A relationship where I am given to God (however fallibly) and God is given to us (which we know in Jesus Christ). So the heart of prayer seems to me about givenness. And trust. I think over time, we may come to trust, whatever the troubles in our lives, that God remains faithful to us, given, and deeply caring.

In addition, I think the surrender that happens in giving yourself to God, involves accepting one's own weakness, frailty, and dependence. None of us can raise ourselves from the dead and we are all mortal. Before God, we come (and give ourselves) in that weakness and dependence. Because, if you are like me, you mess up many times, frankly we come before God in rags. But what matters is we come to God ("Come unto Me") and open our hearts to the love of God, and open ourselves to love God back. That's not always easy at all, because of hurt and regrets and maybe guilt.

But I think, over time, trust can build between God and us. Over time, we may come to experience the grace of God, and know times together where we find quiet spirit to be still, to be quiet, to gaze, to trust, to love.

To me, that kind of givenness in love is at the heart of prayer (essentially and primarily God's love for us, and givenness to us). But it doesn't end there. What I find is that once there is trust and openness, we also open ourselves to the flow of God's love, and the power of God's love, to pray for other people and to live out that love and compassion towards other people.

In other words, God's givenness to us, is not simply for us. It is so we can open up to everything it means to be given to God, open up to that flow of love and God's Spirit... and so our prayer life can maybe infect all the rest of our lives with more love and more grace (albeit we will always be frail, weak and fallible).

So to me (and don't get me wrong, my prayer life is quite often poor) God longs for us to come in prayer, both to share love with us, but also to open us to intercession for others.

I'm interested in other aspects of prayer any of you feel you would like to share.

Failure as a pathway to growth

We live in culture that often emphasises success and excellence. But very few of us are always successful, and many of us fall short of excellence most of the time.

In fact, failure can be a valuable spiritual pathway, because at times of failure, we are sometimes stripped bare of our proud pretences before God, and recognise the eternal reality of our dependence and need for God.

At the end of all our assertions, and distractions about ourselves, we come before God in need. We come before a God who loves us dearly, sees us, still values us, and this God is faithful and devoted to us.

We see that devotion in Jesus Christ, who gave his life in love, and offering.

When we come before God in the rags of our own failures, God can help us to 'get real'. To simplify our spirituality. To stop striving for perfection, and instead, opening our hearts to God's love and tenderness.

At that point of repentance and opening to God, it begins: the flow of the love of God can begin once more. The Holy Spirit, like a flowing stream of love, can heal and renew not only ourselves, but those who we, in turn, dare to open up to and serve.

How often, spiritual renewal begins at the point of repentance, and the recognition of our weakness and our dependence on God.

Opening out hearts to the Love of God

How easily we get hurt, or hurt ourselves, and retreat into a protective hard shell. It's very understandable.

Yet God longs for us to open our hearts to healing and the touch of God's love. We can't do it ourselves. It's a work of grace.

Deep in our innermost place, God waits for us, day after day, all through our lives. Longs to comfort, reassure us. Longs to touch us with love and forgiveness and acceptance. Longs to open us up.

Being a Christian is opening our hearts and letting God in. It is also opening our hearts to others - not keeping God's love just for ourselves, but sharing it, letting it flow, just like God shares with us.

Open your eyes, open your ears, Jesus is trying to touch your heart. Open your mind, open your life, Jesus is wanting to show you. His grace is all you need, and in your weakness you'll have strength. Please don't be proud, please don't pretend, Jesus can see every need you have. Weakness is hard, failure is real, but Jesus can give you your freedom.

Jesus just longs for us to let down our defences, and let him touch our hearts with his gentle, powerful love. Longs to heal us where we hurt the most. Longs to open our hearts, and be there, be there with us.

The Book of Ruth

I love the Book of Ruth. It is such a tender-hearted narrative. And I love the way a lot of its perspectives involve two women, walking with God, and the solidarity between them, and their faithfulness.

A lot of the Bible seems quite masculine-slanted in its voice (which is not to imply that God cares any the less about women). In the Book of Ruth though, there is a refreshing account of two women's fidelity in adversity, their feelings, their perspective.

Of course, I also love the good, decent, strong and masculine role of Boaz in the narrative. He demonstrates how a good estate should be run, he shows care, he shows respect for a woman's dignity, he shows faith.

In the way Boaz runs his household and estate, I like to think it reflects the eternal household and good estate of God, to which each of us is invited and called.

The Book resonates with mercy, love and grace.