Prayer and Energy

Through prayer, by prayer and in prayer we learn by experience the bottomless depths of His love for us. If you are distressed about your best never being good enough – gratefulness is needed. If you are lukewarm (tepid) and indifferent to the things of God around you only a heart of gratitude toward God can open you up and break off the disease of apathy. Reverence is the way to restoring the good and godly things in your life.

Paul wrote in Ephesians “Our struggle is not against creatures of flesh and blood, but against the potentates and rulers of the darkness of this world and against the spirits of evil in the celestial realms of the prince of the air.” So those who secretly fight and oppose our spiritual advancement inhabit the world of thought and influence our brains. These forces were once celestial intelligences and have lived for eons. They seek to drain any connection to God and de-energize the human’s soul.

Let’s take a look at a few specific things to note when thinking of prayer and energy:

  1. Relationship increases personal energy – All of us have those times in our lives where our spiritual energy is higher than at other times. The world goes around literally and metaphorically because of energy. It is no different for our inner beings. Have you ever said to a friend, “I just don’t have the energy to do this or that.”  Maybe you said, “I just don’t feel like…” Your energy level affected your ability to respond in a given situation. This is much deeper than a feeling or some hyped up emotion. The energy for deeper living comes directly from your connection to the giver of life.
  2. James 4:3 is a promise – The Bible in James 4:8, “If we come near to God, he will come near to us.”  Most have no problem with that concept, but how do we approach him? Where is he? Where does he live? This is characterized by a growing conversation with God. We call it prayer.
  3. Jesus was often alone in prayer – Jesus culminating preparation for his ministry (on this earth) was alone, in the wilderness, going through the dark, diverting, corrupting forces of evil, until they were faced down and their power shriveled. He emerged empowered, emboldened, with an indomitable sense of vocation. After this, he continued to go off alone to pray from time to time. (Tilden Edwards, Spiritual Friend, p. 14)
  4. Responsibility & Effort – There can be no insight into life and the kingdom without effort. Having said that however, that should not keep us from taking our RESPONSIBILITY seriously. The spiritual disciplines are many and vary depending on one’s spiritual heritage. Some of the most common are: Confession, Worship, Bible Study, Giving, Fasting, Meditation (God words) Silence, Contemplation (Person of Christ) etc.
  5. Remembering & Gratitude – Another reason in increasing spiritual energy is found in recalling “spiritual markers.” Revisiting God’s activity in your life can be a wonderful spiritual exercise. This certainly could be included in list of disciplines.  The ancients called it meditation. You can create spiritual momentum in the inner life by remembering God’s activity in your life. One of my mentors said a long time ago, “God is always more concerned about your future than he is your past.” In fact, some of the darkest times spiritually for me have been when I could remember past failures.
  6. Resiliency & Distress – In Disney’s Lion King, Simba had to face the death of his father and his new responsibilities as King. But instead of eating meat and being king, he ran around with a pig and a cute little rodent and sang, Hakunamatata, which meant no worries. THE ONLY WAY YOU HAVE NO WORRIES IS FOR YOU NOT TO FACE UP TO YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES.The spiritual life is not a stress free life. In fact, the opposite is true. Once you start living up to your destiny, and who God has called you to be and face your responsibilities, you will encounter great stress. Stress in your life will ultimately produce consistency and character if you will allow it to by embracing the stress by showing RESILIENCY.
  7. Attachment is a French word derived from “attaché” meaning  “nailed to.” Attachment nails our desires to specific objects and creates addiction. The brain never completely forgets its old attachments, so the absence of desire at this time does not mean it’s gone. Addiction exists wherever persons are internally compelled to give energy to things that are not their true desire. Addiction is a state of compulsion, obsession, or preoccupation that enslaves a person’s will and desire. Attachment enslaves desire and detachment liberates desire
  8. Humility is the Opposite of Attachment – True humility sets us free to act virtuously. The more pride that is resident within you the greater the attachments. Humility sets us free to do what is really good by revealing the false illusions in our lives. “If we were humble we’d know to what extent we are liars.” God is stern with us in His relentless mercy to draw us toward himself. Yet, God’s way does not bring us to despair but to humility. A truthful admission of weakness.
  9.  He is the God Who Restores - He uses direct contact with us to restore us. Divine empowerment and interaction. In His presence there is fullness of joy. In prayer we become more and more convinced that He is trustworthy. That He is above all other creatures. We learn He never falters or fails and commands all things.
  10. The deeper we go into God – The clearer we see that we are functioning in a world not of talent, performance, human effort but of personal connection to the living God. That takes place through prayer as a humbling conversation that invites us into winning in Jesus name.
  11. Prayer does not allow us to inflate ourselves – it relieves the tension to perform and invites us into communion with Him who has mercy toward us all the time. Prayer itself moves up and down and in and out in a rhythmic symphony of participating with God for His will and not our own.

Prayer is powerful. When we pray, we are expressing the innermost parts of our beings. The Psalms are an incredible example of prayers both the energetic prayers and the desperate prayers. Start your day by praying this prayer today.

Psalm 51:1-12 Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your loving-kindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom. Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness,Let the bones which You have broken rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God,And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.

Restoring Gratefulness

Through prayer, by prayer, and in prayer we learn the bottomless depths of His love for us. If you find yourself distressed that your best never feels good enough – you need gratefulness. If you are lukewarm (tepid) and indifferent to the things of God around you only a heart of gratitude toward God can open you up and break off the disease of apathy.

  1. Inward Poverty – It is often in our most sinful states that we come to see His love goes even deeper than we could have ever imagined. Since that is so, we must never be afraid to go to Him continually in all our weakness and in infirmities.
  2. Personal Distress – You’re in distress works to your extreme advantage when there’s nothing left to seek but mercy. Our own poverty of heart is our greatest blessing if we have become ungrateful. This is because there is never neutrality between gratefulness and ungratefulness. You are either grateful for all God’s blessings in a deep way or not.
  3. Constant Complaining – Constant griping about this thing or that thing or about this person or that person is a sign of ungratefulness.
  4. Heart Apatheia – Those who do not love, hate. In your spiritual life there is no such thing as indifference to love or hate. That is why apathy is so dangerous because it is HATE disguised as LOVE.
  5. Indifference – Indifference where the soul is neither hot or cold is a selfish ungratefulness disguised as intellectual considerations or judgments.
  6. Gratitude vs. Hypocrisy – they are complete opposites. You will never be a hypocrite if you are always grateful to God for His blessings and love. To be grateful is to see His love at work toward you.
  7. Shallow Praise – we must not just make a mental note of the things God has done for us and offer up shallow praise – we internally and externally remain grateful. The conflicted hypocrite – internally and externally. Gratitude brings congruency to the inner life.
  8. Loving Nothingness – To say to yourself, “I am nothing is not an act of humility at all it is only saying I wish I were not what I am.” To really know our nothingness we must also love it. And we cannot love it unless we see that it is good. And we cannot see that it is good unless we accept it.
  9. Praise without Poverty is impossible – Spiritual poverty is a beautiful thing if it is truly such. Yet it’s possible to be without in so many ways and yet try and try to do things that obligate others to us. In one’s poverty to continually use favors is to try for possession of people for your own purposes. Yet, when in humility we see that all our worth and value and blessing are truly gifts from God we enter into true praise. “He must increase, we must decrease.”

Sources: Thoughts in Solitude, Merton.

Love Not Discipline

Photo By: Ryk Neethling

Photo By: Ryk Neethling

Disciplined vs. Un-disciplined

It is good to celebrate one’s spiritual disciplines and another thing altogether to exalt them to a high pedestal in your mind. You are not living to attain spiritual discipline. You are living to love God with all of your heart. This teaching is something that I’ve shared recently with my pastoral team. I hope you will find it as helpful and encouraging as they did.

Disciplined: Some temperaments are naturally given to discipline and organization.

Un-disciplined: Some personality types live less disciplined but not necessarily less spiritual.

  1. The Personality Type – One’s personality type does not predestine some to live holy lives and others sinful lives.
  2. Your Personality is a Gift – You are unique in every way. Your personality with its tweaks and twists are a real part of who you are and the currency of all your relationships on earth.
  3. The Naturally Disciplined Person – The person that is naturally disciplined was not given a special spiritual advantage over another – they are both desperately in need of God’s grace to their personal lives.
  4. The Attributes God’s Looking For – There are three simple attributes that are not driven by skill but by your inner life, your heart. God is looking for LOYALTY from you. That you would ultimately keep to Him by making all decisions in light of your relationship with God. God is looking for FAITHFULNESS from you. Keep all the promises that you’ve made. God is looking for humility from you. He knows you’ll fail but He eyes are watching your response.
  5. The Metaphor of the Mountain –The long slow climb up the difficult mountain is the picture of your life. It goes uphill the entire way. One key characteristic is to keep on climbing and resting in a rhythm that considers safety and sustenance. Every person is on a different part of the mountain. Some of the slopes are steeper than others.
  6. Climbing is good – “A man is good when his will takes joy in what is good, evil when his will takes joy in what is evil” (St. Thomas). A good heart struggles, and climbs, and overcomes evil by continuing the climb. The person who sins in spite of themselves but does not love their sin is not a sinner in the fullest sense of the word but progresses in learning more about the depths of grace and responsibility.
  7. Emotional Spirituality – It would be absurd to think that emotion has no place in the spiritual life. It is a part of who you completely are. You are personality, temperament, emotion, and yet a whole person. Allow your emotions to love God.
  8. Gracefully Free – The goal of the spiritual life is not to deaden your emotions or humanity but rather set it free with a powerful and rich grace. God’s not looking to remove your humanity. He wants you to love Him through your humanity.
  9. The Holy Place Where God Lives – You are the holy place where God lives not the front of the auditorium at church. You are like a sacred temple, with the incense of gratitude burning or the stench of worldly love filling the atmosphere. Inside your own unique temperament and personality are a myriad of emotions that long to love God.
  10. The Management of You – The stewardship of your emotions and the desire for God leads you closer toward spiritual maturity.
  11. Gratitude vs. Ingratitude – There is no neutral ground between gratitude and non-gratitude. Gratitude and compunction are two powerful emotions that used to propel you into His presence.

Love—authentic heartfelt love—will produce deeper and deeper commitments and discipline will result. Yet, everything in the spirit-realm starts and ends with love. Love wins over discipline every time.

Sources: Thoughts in Solitude, Merton.