Everyone struggles with Prayer. We’re all invited to engage in ‘Daily Moments of Reflection’. Another way of saying this is that we choose to give a generous portion of our time to prayer and contemplation. It’s about deliberately wasting time with God for the fourfold purpose of,

* Developing our intimate friendship with Godencounter-with-God

* Acknowledging that throughout our daily life we seek to prioritise God and his Kingdom purpose

* Recognising our dependence upon God for our life and well being

* Encountering the presence of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit personally and together with others.

The majority of people when asked if they pray, will respond in the affirmative. Yet, for me, and for many, this positive response to a direct question was for many years merely the answer I felt was expected, rather than the reality, and I was a little ashamed at how impoverished my encounter with God was in practice. For many years I struggled with prayer. I found the process a challenge with my mind wandering and discovering I carried within myself a weight of expectation that had somehow taken root within me.

Consequently, I dragged myself to prayer reluctantly, prayed from a misplaced sense of duty and felt guilty when I didn’t pray.  The word ‘enough’ tormented, not least because enough is an imprecise measurement and a source for nothing greater than condemnation. And who amongst us would find much enthusiasm once we knew we stood condemned?

I remember in Youth for Christ (YFC), as I trained youth workers, I would ask, ‘what are the six most important things to impress upon a new believer?’ Invariably the first three were prayer, reading the bible and joining an active church. The next three reflected the individual’s theological preferences! Later in that same session, having moved on in the teaching, I asked what were the six most difficult aspects of the Christian life each person in the room experienced. No surprises it was usually prayer, bible reading and church attendance. It was not lost on any one of us that what we demanded of new converts was something we personally struggled with! Somewhat unkind and unrealistic.

My second observation in YFC was that I very quickly found ‘doing God’s work’ far more enjoyable than ‘seeking God’s face’ in prayer. I organised evangelistic concerts throughout the UK, ran school and campus missions, led summer camps etc. Many found faith in Christ, I loved the profile and sense of ‘getting God’s work done’ yet sadly stopped seriously seeking God as a consequence. I was too busy fulfilling my ministry and getting God’s work done! Eventually burnt out with exhaustion I was forced to take six months out. Six months in which to evaluate what went wrong! Cut off from the source of spiritual refreshment and renewal, I simply ran out of my own resource.

I was a natural communicator and organiser and drew upon my natural gifts to make projects happen. These projects gave the impression of God’s kingdom being established, yet they were mere projections of myself; what I imagined was God’s will and God’s way. Of course they were exciting and very tangible. So many people were able to participate in them and they appeared to reveal God’s hand at work in our world. These projects were not bad, and indeed many good things happened. However, I sustained them, and I was now drained and exhausted. I knew God, yet hadn’t fathomed how to engage and live out of the heavenly resources available to me. I did not know how to make my way into God’s presence. I had the theory yet lacked any meaningful practice. Practice that would require listening to the words of others, learning from their experience and working at establishing an effective life of prayer for myself. I didn’t particularly relish it; however, I knew I needed it. A journey started out of that period of exhaustion. A journey that was long in the making, and one that I shrank back from on numerous occasions.

barrenOf course a journey, as has often been said, begins with a single step. Mine was to step away from my insatiable appetite for platform, profile and personal affirmation. Whilst at the same time taking a step towards God, a step that carried me deeper into the wilderness. I had my own demons and temptations to face, identify and resist through the guidance of God’s spirit. So began what has been to date an eighteen year adventure, travelling deeper into the wilderness whilst simultaneously discovering God has personality and presence as my friend. The wilderness is a lonely place and often times it destabilises me as I observe so many worthy activities of which I am not a part. However, I choose to remain faithful to this road I am on, completely uncertain of where it might lead me.

 

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