Monday, November 25, 2013

It Would Be Easier to Pray if I were Clear

On Wednesday morning, I left for a short silent retreat at Mt. Elgon National Park.  If you have read this blog for some time, you know that I try to take a silent retreat annually.  A silent retreat, as the name implies, is no talking, no reading (not even the Bible, except for one text), usually not even praying (although communication with God helps to center, as the prayers below indicate)...just quieting myself (usually through lots of journaling) and listening for the voice of God.  I often spend much time praying and not much time listening, so this is an intensive attempt to listen.  I had not had a chance yet this year to do this, but I was able to grab a couple of days last week.  I usually take about five days, as I need two days to empty myself before really being able to hear God's voice; I am then able to spend a couple of delightful, heavenly days in His presence, and then one day to adjust to being back on earth.  This time, however, I would have Wednesday to drive and settle in, Thursday as a full day of quiet, and then have to leave by Friday morning; so basically one full day.  Naturally, I was a bit nervous about whether or not I would be able to quiet myself quickly enough to hear Him.  And, often, as I try to hear or strain to be quiet, I can sometimes get noisier.  I found this prayer by Ted Loder to be helpful (from Guerrillas of Grace):
O Eternal One, it would be easier for me to pray if I were clear
and of a single mind and a pure heart;
Sitting upon a bluff within the park.
if I could be done hiding from myself and from you, 
even in my prayers,
But, I am who I am,
mixture of motives and excuses,
blur of memories,
quiver of hopes,
knot of fear,
tangle of confusion,
and restless with love, for love.

I wander somewhere between
gratitude and grievance,
wonder and routine,
high resolve and undone dreams,
This hawk circled and hovered over me several times.
generous impulses and unpaid bills.

Come, find me, Lord.

Be with me exactly as I am.
Help me find me, Lord.
Help me accept what I am,
so I can begin to be yours.

Make of me something small enough to snuggle,
young enough to question,
simple enough to giggle,
old enough to forget,
foolish enough to act for peace; 
skeptical enough to doubt the sufficiency of anything but you,
and attentive enough to listen as you call me out of the tomb of my timidity
into the chancy glory of my possibilities
and the power of your presence.
As I gave myself permission to just be me and to stop striving, I began to hear again.  The initial message, as it always is, is one of the delight of my Heavenly Father in me - His daughter, His child.  I begin to relax.  I'm reminded that James 4:8 says, "Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you." He meets us halfway - or oftentimes even more than halfway.  He doesn't need me to line things up a certain way or behave a certain way in order for Him to meet me.  He longs to meet with me, desires to be with me.

So now I get a bit bolder in my prayer.  Another prayer from Ted Loder (this one from My Heart in My Mouth), called "Crazed Into Awareness" summarizes where I am next during my retreat:

Come, Lord Jesus,
confront me as a prophet:
disturb my indifference,
expose my practiced phoniness,
shatter my brittle certainties,
deflate my arrogant sophistries
and craze my holy awareness
of my common humanity

Right outside the banda or house I stayed in.
and so of my bony, blood need

to love mercy,
do justly,
and walk humbly with You
       -and with myself,

trusting that whatever things it may be too late for
prayer is not one of them,
nor a chance,
nor change,
nor passion,
nor laughter,
nor starting yet again
to risk a way to be together
nor a wild, far-sighted claim
that this human stuff of yours
is stronger still than fail or time,
graced to share a Kingdom,
and spirited for you.
I love the line that says whatever it might be too late for - whatever I may have missed - it is not too late for prayer or another chance or starting again.  What a great God!

Lastly, as I prepare to leave, I have the audacity to ask God for a few things.  Again, Ted Loder's prayer, "We Dare to Ask" is helpful:

We ask only a few things more, O God,
The bluff I climbed after a 6K uphill hike to get here.
a few small, mustard-seed size, faithful, saving things:

to walk with you each moment
without plotting for tomorrow,
and so to really consider the birds of the air, 
the lilies of the field,
and find the treasures hidden in the round of the daily,

to learn by leaning into your Spirit
to be present to others without preoccupation,
to engage without having to win,
to disagree without being judgmental
to accept outcomes without despair,
If that gives you a perspective on the height.

to succeed or fail without misplacing hope,
to tune to the bracing hum of the stars,

to fathom enough
without dismissing fathomless mystery
of your creation
our brothers and sisters,
and the grace and mercy and power
of your embrace that holds close
each small one of us,
and everything all together;
in Jesus name,

In addition to the zebras, waterbucks, bushbucks, blue monkeys, baboons, colobus monkeys, duikers, and impalas, there are other animals at the park that are not as easy to find:  elephants, giraffes, leopards, and hyenas.

Anyone want to come for a silent retreat?