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Primal Yearning and Prayer (Excerpt from WHISPERS THAT DELIGHT)

Excerpt from WHISPERS THAT DELIGHT–Copyright © 2008 Andrew T. Hawkins

Sometimes we think we must obliterate all other desires and somehow progress to a state of wanting nothing but God. However, things do not normally work that way. We cannot just cut the principle of desire out of our lives nor instantly do away with the lusts we seek to overcome. Walter Hilton states that, “Prayer is nothing else but an ascending or getting up of the desire of the heart into God by withdrawing it from earthly thoughts.” To get the longings of our heart “up into” God, we must start where we are. We do that by allowing ourselves to feel our inner life and bring whatever desires we find into the light. If the desire for companionship overwhelms us, we acknowledge that to God. If we are dominated by a longing to climb the corporate ladder or get the lead part in the play, we present this to God. If the overeating/dieting cycle ensnares us, we try to feel the force of this obsession, conscious that we are in his presence. As in deep massage where the masseuse gets below the surface muscles to those supporting them underneath, so in the stillness of prayer we seek to get below the desire for status, pleasure, or goods to our root need for God. As Goethe says, all human longing is really longing for God.

When we understand God does not want to condemn us nor annihilate our deepest passion, but rather fulfill it, we have courage to lay ourselves open honestly. In addition to sharing our wholesome wants with him, we may freely open the secret places where deep, hidden things lie—raw cravings, inappropriate sexual desires, fantasies of greatness, lust for money and power. We let all our hopes, needs, or lusts rise from our depths like water pumped up from a deep well. They originate ultimately in God though some may be so distorted we can hardly recognize their connection to him. Revenge, for example, though clearly not of God, is a misguided desire for justice. Longing for the world’s praise is quintessentially the God-given desire for glory. Wanting to simply feel good, the basis of so many sinful activities, is the desire for joy which God longs to fulfill in a healthy way. Vanity may be a warped desire for beauty, and greed, a twisted longing for security. Bringing our desires into prayer means bringing in this primordial force, whatever disfigured shape it has taken.

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