Walk in the Spirit
Just as seeing in the spirit requires right use of our imagination, so too walking in the spirit needs us to be prepared to risk ourselves on what we believe we see and hear in the spirit. As we allow the Holy Spirit to inform our personal spirit we will gain in confidence.
During one of our staff retreats we did an exercise of imagining where in the room Jesus now is. Because of his being present everywhere, which makes the exercise possible, and his promise to be where we need him to be, which makes it certain, we can expect him to be where we say. It remains then for us to actually ‘see’ him there. We will try this exercise again later, and extend it to allow Jesus an opportunity to dialogue with each of us. Like journaling, and other ‘stream of consciousness’ exercises, we need to exercise faith that Jesus actually wants us to hear and see, and will bring that about.
We will do other exercises in this seminar, but I recommend that you also read the lessons and resource sheets in our Hearing God’s Voice (www.listening2god.com) course, and do the exercises provided there.
Are you willing to take this principle into your daily life, expecting Jesus to dialogue with you as you go about your everyday activities? Will you, like Brother Lawrence, allow him to speak through the pots and pans?
One area that we can begin to practice this is in our participation in communion. Instead of simply taking the bread and wine as a reminder of his death, realise that Jesus really is present in those elements, simply because he said he would be. So, when we eat and drink his resurrection body and his redeeming blood, this is what we actually receive. Don’t try to spiritualise it. This ‘remembrance of me’ is actually a ‘re-membering’ – a making once again the body of the risen Jesus to be a part of our physical body, just as receiving the filling of his Spirit is the receiving of his Spiritual presence. We need a constant renewing of both kinds of presence.
What is the place of quietness in seeking intimacy? There are two ways for people to be intimate with each other. One is in the midst of shared activity, perhaps with other people around and things to be done. It is experienced as a deep contentment that whatever you are doing you are with the one you love. You are sharing common experiences, achieving things together, and supporting each other in the hard times and failures.
The other way, equally important, is to draw apart from all others, just the two of you together. You give each other undivided attention. There is time to share the deepest thoughts and feelings, and the opportunity to respond. There is time to minister to each other’s needs and simply enjoy the presence of the other. This is the place of stillness and quiet. While one can still have a deep quietness in one’s soul, when engaged in activity in the world, it is not the same as that deep, settled stillness that refreshes and restores.
“When all my endeavour is turned toward Thee because all Thy endeavour is turned toward me; when I look unto Thee alone with all my attention, nor ever turn aside the eyes of my mind, because Thou dost enfold me with Thy constant regard; when I direct my love toward Thee alone because Thou, who art Love’s self hast turned Thee toward me alone. And what, Lord, is my life, save that embrace wherein Thy delightsome sweetness doth so lovingly enfold me?”
It is when we are still and quiet that we can hear those ‘finest whispers’ that Geoff Bullock sings about; the ‘gentle whisper’ that Elijah heard in the Desert of Horeb (1 Kings 19: 12). If you read this passage in its context, what you find is that this mighty man of God, this seer, this prophet who had just called fire down from heaven, and humiliated and killed 450 prophets of Baal, was now being taught two things. First, he was learning how God may not be heard, then how he may be heard. Are we willing to be at least as humble as Elijah and put aside our presuppositions about how God should do things?
Listen to what Jim Goll says about contemplative prayer:
“More than anything else, contemplative prayer is about intimacy with God. Although in practice it goes far beyond formulas, techniques and methodologies, at heart it is really quite simple and basic. Contemplative prayer is about setting apart regular time specifically and exclusively for meeting the Lord. I’m talking about much more than a daily ‘quiet time’ with its five minute Scripture and devotional reading and ‘quickie’ prayer (although that’s a good place to start, especially if at present you’re not getting any time alone with God). Contemplative prayer takes time, patience, discipline, and careful cultivation, not because God is elusive or distant, but because we have so many negative and unhealthy mental habits to unlearn.” (The Lost Art of Practicing His Presence, p 42).
Richard Foster says this about the prayer of quiet:
“As we grow accustomed to the unifying grace of recollection, we are ushered into a second step in Contemplative prayer, what Teresa of Avila calls, ‘The prayer of quiet’. We have through recollection put away all obstacles of the heart, all distractions of the mind, all vacillations of the will. Divine graces of love and adoration wash over us like ocean waves. … At the center of our being we are hushed … There is stillness to be sure, but it is a listening stillness. Something deep inside us has been awakened and brought to attention. Our spirit is on tiptoe – alert and listening. There is an inward steady gaze of the heart sometimes called beholding the Lord. We bask in the warmth of his presence…
“As we wait before the Lord, graciously we are given a teachable spirit.” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p 163)
So then, to conclude this lesson, to gain in intimacy with Jesus it will be helpful to keep in mind a number of things:
If we wish to be intimate with Jesus, then we must expect him to come to us, but we must also be prepared to go to him. If we are to hear his voice and see his presence then we need to cultivate those faculties he has given us to enable this. We must set aside special times for Jesus to be alone with us, but we must also expect him to be present at all other times. We must not be satisfied to just believe this by faith. Rather, he wants us to actively pursue him. We should learn to actually experience his presence whenever and wherever we can, in all and any circumstances. There will probably be times when we will be unable to do so, but they should be the exceptions.