Amma Ammonas was going to pay a visit, to Abba Anthony, one day, and he lost his way. So sitting down, he fell asleep for a little while. Upon waking, he prayed thus to God,’ I beseech you, Lord my God, do not let your creature perish.’ Then there appear to him as it were a man’s hand in the heavens, we showed him the way, till he reached about Anthony’s cave.
In the days of the built in phone GPS, Google maps, and a host of other apps and programs, we can find our way to just about anywhere. That is good, but it can leave a very deep hole in our souls. We feel as though nothing is impossible and God gets thrown out like those maps you use to have in your car. The Abba had to find his path to his friend by sight and memory, and he lost his way. There is not one among that has not lost our spiritual way. We lose or way when we run out of options. No new self-help books or apps to guide us along. Running out of such options can take a while in 2015. When that process is exhausted, we may turn to God.
The wise man of the desert gives us a different scenario. As soon as he woke up from his rest, he asked God for help. There is nothing written about him retracing his steps or anything else. In this very mundane of needs, he simply asked God. How hard is it for you to go to God first? First, before you have done all you can do out of shear pride. First, when full credit for the solution would have to be given to God. I am reminded of a prayer from an old movie that encapsulates the attitude of many.
“Lord, we cleared this land, We plowed it, sowed it and harvested it. We cooked the harvest, it wouldn’t be here, we wouldn’t Be eatin’ it, if we hadn’t done it all ourselves. We worked dog-boned hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you Just the same anyway, Lord, for this food we’re about to eat. Amen.” Shenandoah (1965)
That little prayer may be shocking to you but is your attitude truly that different? If we are honest with ourselves, we are reminded of two things on a daily basis. The first is that we cannot find all knowledge on our own. Secondly, we really can’t do it all. . Lingering in our shadowy places are points at which we lose our way. And we, like the monk, must turn to God and allow His hand to lead us.
Lord allow me to put aside the many things that cause me to put You on the back burner. Relieve me of the curse of self-reliance .May I be enlighten by your Spirit this day and look to the place from which my help comes. Lord, guide me in my lostness. Amen
- Lessons From The Road (beyondthemiryclay.wordpress.com)
- Praying the Lord’s Prayer (frted.wordpress.com)
Abba Sisoes says: Seek God, not where God lives.
It is one thing to make a pilgrimage to the desert to find God. It is entirely another to be open to finding God where we are.
Then we become what the challenge of the moment summons us to be. Then Abba Sisoes’ word of spiritual advice—to seek God and not simply the trappings of the spiritual life—becomes real, becomes true.
Life is not an exercise in spiritual gymnastics. It is one long, unending attempt to put on the mind of God wherever we are, whatever happens to us on the way. We are not here to pray our way out of life’s challenges. We are here to grow through every one of them into spiritual adulthood.
The shrines and special prayers and holy pilgrimages along the way are spiritual oases meant to build our strength for the rest of the way. They are not God; they are simply signs that the God who made us is with us. It is that relationship that counts far beyond any particular devotion.
Abba Sisoes held the secret of the really spiritual life. However faithfully we have cultivated a favorite devotion, he warns us, we are not to allow ourselves to be beguiled by any of them. Each and all of them have only one purpose. They are meant simply to point in the direction of the consciousness of God at all times and in all places.
Some years ago, when Leonard Griffith was pastor of the famous City Temple in London, he wrote a fascinating book entitled Barriers to Christian Belief. In that book he dealt with some problems that have over the years been real obstacles and stumbling blocks for people in their faith pilgrimage… specific problems that hinder people, that burden people, that disturb people… and keep them away from the Christian faith. One of the barriers he listed was…”unanswered prayer.” It does seem to be a fact of our experience that many people do get discouraged and they do give up and drop out on the faith because they feel a sense of failure in their prayer life.
This leads us to ask then… “How do you pray?” “Why pray at all?” “When do you pray?” “Is there a special formula or a sacred language that should be used?” One thing is clear. There are many questions and there is much misunderstanding about how you pray and why. In a Peanuts cartoon Charlie Brown is kneeling beside his bed for prayer. Suddenly he stops and says to Lucy, “I think I’ve made a new theological discovery, a real breakthrough. If you hold your hands upside down, you get the opposite of what you pray for.”
Prayer must be more than an emergency magical lamp rubbed in a crisis. The truth is that many people give up on prayer because they never understand what prayer is. Much that passes for prayer is irrational, superstitious, and self-centered, and is therefore unworthy of the pattern of the prayer that Jesus offered to us his disciples.
How do you pray and why? We are not the first to ask. The disciples of Jesus
came to Him one day and said, “Lord, teach us. Teach us to pray!” Notice something here. When did the disciples ask for this? When did they make this request? Was it after Jesus gave a lecture on prayer? No! Was it after Jesus led a seminar on prayer? No! Was it after Jesus preached a powerful sermon on prayer? No! None of these. Remember how it is recorded in Luke 11… “Jesus was praying in a certain place and when he finished, they said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.'” They saw the power of prayer in Him. They saw how important prayer was to Him. See the point. Harry Emerson Fosdick stresses it in his book, The Secret of Victorious Living. “Note that this awakened interest in prayer came not at all from new arguments about it, but from a new exhibition of its power. Here, before their very eyes, they saw a personality in whom prayer was vital and influential! The more they lived with him, the more they saw that they could never explain him or understand him unless they understood his praying and so not at all because of new arguments, but because of amazing spiritual power released in him by prayer. They wanted him to tell them how to pray.”
The disciples sometimes were slow to learn, but at this point they were quickly and precisely on target. They saw in Jesus the answer to this question: how do we pray and why do we pray? And they learned from Him what the elements are that lead to a meaningful prayer life.
Filed under Jesus, Prayer