My friend handed me a thin book that began with a story about a mother who worked hard with her baby to reclaim that child from autism with extensive therapies. The author’s point went from the epidemic of autism, which isolates the person from relating to others, and asks us to consider if we are so distracted by our own pursuits, particularly our electronic devices, that we are growing incapable of sustaining real relationships. The author, Patricia Snow, recounts this horrific, but all too common, story. “In a Barnes and Noble bookstore recently, a young child, in a voice loud enough to be heard throughout the store, kept saying, “Daddy! This is a triceratops. He has three big horns. . . . Daddy! This is a stegosaurus. He has a spikey tail. . . . Daddy!” For as long as I was in the store, the agonizing litany continued. Again and again, the strong-willed child tried to force her father’s attention, while her father, as I observed when I went to the children’s section to see, sat in a chair a few feet from his daughter, his legs spread and his whole upper body bent over the glowing screen of his phone.” What must it do to a child to feel that kind of rejection, for that is what it is!
There is an even more serious issue for those of us who are conditioned by the instant feedback from our glowing phones as we pursue a vital prayer life, our conversations with God. Ms. Snow pushes that point with this about our knowing God. “If human conversations are endangered, what of prayer, a conversation like no other? All of the qualities that human conversation requires—patience and commitment, an ability to listen and a tolerance for aridity—prayer requires in greater measure. A book like Donald Haggerty’s Contemplative Provocations reminds us just how much time, silence, and patience with apparent absence are preconditions for a relationship with the Divine.”
Prayer can be difficult work! “Jerry, how can you say that? It is wonderful to pray.” And, it is, but none the less, real prayer is hard. The simple prayers- “Thanks, God, for the sunshine today.” Or, “Help me to get this task accomplished,” are easy. Communing with God in a way that is intimate, life changing, and that comes to know Him, demands time, patience, and persistence.
Read the Psalms and observe what the Word says. “Of David. A psalm. I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.” (Psalm 40:1, NIV) Paul famously speaks of asking the Lord several times to remove his ‘thorn in the flesh,’ “But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV) What? No 30 second response? No, nothing like that! Job endured a long season of silence, finally crying out in frustration – “I want to meet You face to face and make You provide answers to me!” God never did explain Himself. He told Job that He was God and that was enough! Even Jesus wrestled with the Father’s will that night before the Cross in such emotional stress that He sweat drops of blood and poured out words of anguish!
It is no accident that marriage is one of the Scripture’s prime examples of our relationship with the Lord. A marriage that is marked by intimacy is not easily nor quickly made. A husband and wife must be intentional, self-denying, patient, pursuing the other constantly – to create the kind of ‘oneness’ that is the ideal. If we would know God intimately, walk with Him in love, we cannot find Him in a holy minute, in an occasional perusal of the Scripture, and in the occasional 60 minute church service. We will have to wait on Him, listen carefully for Him, and endure times of unexplained silences. We cannot truly find Him while we allow ourselves to be distracted by a thousand other things.
At the end of all that, we find a quality of life that is amazingly whole, a serenity that is rare, and eternal life now, here in this temporal world.
Our word from the Word is a more lengthy one today. Read this song of David with open heart and eyes. Ask yourself, do I know how to wait on the Lord? Do I pray only for answers, or to know Him, richly and intimately?
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare. Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.
Then I said, “Here I am, I have come— it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, as you know, O Lord. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly. Do not withhold your mercy from me, O Lord; may your love and your truth always protect me. For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me.
Be pleased, O Lord, to save me; O Lord, come quickly to help me. May all who seek to take my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace. May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!” be appalled at their own shame.
But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, “The Lord be exalted!” Yet I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, do not delay.” (Psalm 40:1-17, NIV) Amen
The entire article from which I drew the quotes above is found at this link.