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.
Excerpt from WHISPERS THAT DELIGHT–Copyright © 2008 Andrew T. Hawkins
After lifting our minds in praise to our Heavenly Father, self-examination and confession flow rather naturally. Having glanced toward his beauty and grace, our thoughts inevitably drift back to how unfortunately different we are. Two frightening consequences of the Fall make this attention shift unavoidable, namely, guilt and shame. Their painful weight upon our heart demands our attention, making it impossible to tune into God. Nothing does more to deafen us to his voice than these two debilitating emotions and the anxiety they generate. Confession freshens the inner life by dispelling these dark clouds and preparing us to hear our Lord once again. . . .
Confession opens the inner life the way the surgeon’s knife opens the body. However, just being cut open heals no one. When the doctor finishes his repair work and closes the incision, the body’s natural healing processes take over and recovery occurs. Similarly, although a necessary first step, merely examining ourselves to see what we have done wrong brings no relief. Down through church history Christians have not been helped by incessantly hashing and rehashing the past, but by taking their burdens to the Lord and leaving them there, as the old song says. When Brother Lawrence did something to let God down, he simply said to him, “I shall never do otherwise if You leave me to myself; it is You who must hinder my falling and mend what is amiss.” After this he gave himself no further uneasiness about it—and went back to placing his mind on God.
In summary, a time of confession brightens the inner life and prepares us to listen to God by dispelling the oppressive weight of guilt and shame which inevitably attracts our attention and thus prevents us from attending to our Heavenly Father.
Recently in prayer I imagined that God was saying something like the following:
“Whatever you do, do in peace. In a peaceful state of mind you will have the opportunity to look to God for confirmation that you’re on the right track. A hurried, hectic spirit is distracted by the pressures. It cannot hear. The lions will roar. Inner voices will urge hurry and worry, but ignore them. Yours is the path of peace. “The Lord will bless his people with peace” (Psa. 29:11). In that peace you may be in constant communion. There you may hear. There you may pray without ceasing.”
The deep peace that I entered into for the next day or two confirmed to me that indeed God was speaking. God will speak peace to his people (Ps. 85:8).
Herein is a lesson. Don’t worry too much about whether the impressions you get as you meditate on the Bible are actually God or not. Realize that we are on a journey where we’re learning. Let’s face it, we don’t hear God very well at all. But that’s all right. He knows that and yet he loves us still. Therefore, feel free to experiment. Feel free to fail. Imagine what God might be saying. Let there be a lightness in your spirit. Be open and receptive. Time often helps us clarify whether an impression, thought or feeling was God speaking to us or not.
Our basic understanding of reality (worldview) either opens the door to communication with God or slams it tightly shut.
In the first instance, we must obviously believe that God exists if we are to connect with him. Fortunately, this foundation block is in place for the vast majority of people. We simply don’t have enough faith to believe this marvelous universe popped into existence by itself no matter how many years we give it to do so.
Other questions are more pertinent. What kind of a universe was created? Is it merely physical or does it also include the realm of spirit? Are humans spiritual or simply matter with a blob of consciousness? In other words, do we possess the hardware for communication with God?
Even more importantly, what sort of a God do we have? Is God good, worthy of my trust? If I believe he’s indifferent or even evil, I won’t be much interested in what he has to say. I certainly won’t go out of my way to hear him.
Conclusion: If a supreme being exists and has created us with the capacity of spirit and if this supreme being is good, it is eminently logical that we can receive communication from him or her. Not only that, we crave it–because our very essence resonates with this divine frequency from which it was created.
The essence of all Christian living consists in only two things–listening to God and responding to him. That’s it. That’s all we have to do! If we do but these two things, we can assure ourselves that we please God immensely. We fulfill our destiny. We function the way God made human beings to function. His wind fills our sails.
We build church services around these two elements and personal prayer should be likewise structured. The ‘PARE’ prayer pattern outlined in my book is built around these two elements, listening (attentiveness) and response to God. The “P” in PARE stands for preparation to hear and the “E” stands for enjoyment (lingering at the end of prayer to simply enjoy God’s presence). So the pattern is Preparation-Attentiveness-Response-Enjoyment.
Having said that, however, we can simplify our responsibility even further. Jesus told Martha he required only ONE thing. Martha’s sister, Mary, knew what that one thing is, listening to Jesus (Luke 10:38-42). If we steadfastly listen to him, we will inevitably respond by living the way he wants. We’ll love, pray, forgive, help the vulnerable, stand up to injustice etc.
Perhaps someone would argue that we can hear God and refuse to obey him. That’s only partially true. We can say no to God only if we turn away from him. We can’t keep listening and disobey for the pressure would drive us crazy. By listening to God we open ourselves to the power of the universe and that current moves us in the direction of his will–loving and doing good works. To refuse to go along with God would be harder than standing against the Niagara. The human frame could not take it. We would end up like those who stoned Stephen. When they heard him speaking God’s truth, they covered their ears and yelled as loud as they could to drown out the heavenly words he spoke (Acts 7:56,57). If we don’t want to do what God says, avoiding him remains our only option.
If we decide to keep listening, as stated above, we open ourselves to wonderful, divine power. We may feel pressure build as elements within us resist going God’s way, but as we stay the course God helps us through. The river of his presence washes those blockages away like so much driftwood. We begin to move in the Spirit. Therefore, whatever you do, build some quiet attentiveness to God into your prayer time.