Thursday, February 18, 2016

It shall accomplish that for which I purpose it


Am I able to be still and simply listen to God?

That's a good one! I find it hard to be still and simply listen to the world around me.

I often begin my prayer time simply trying to do that - the ticking of the clock, a car passing by ... and before I know it, my mind is being crowded by internal noises. All the things I need to get done today; what will I preach about this Sunday; I think it's starting to rain, and just when I needed to get the front door painted; when should I schedule that committee meeting; and on and on. After a moment, I try to refocus -- I do this several times -- yet each time, I it seems that I can listen only for a moment before the distractions start again.

I remember the advice of a director some time ago: when distractions come, be gentle with yourself, a gentle correction and reorientation is all that is needed. So I seek to put this into practice each time.  It becomes a continual pattern of reorientation . . . kind of like driving a car
. Going forward requires many small corrections of the wheel. Failure to make these constant, little corrections for the sake of a disciplined straight line would cause the car to go off the road in short order. I find that it is like that in my relationship with God - a series of small (sometimes not so small) corrections to keep on course. So must it be in my prayer. Gentle, continual corrections reorienting to the focus of my attention and affection.

In the passage for today, I am struck by one verse in particular:

"So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth,
It shall not return to me empty,
But it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
And succeed I the thing for which I sent it."

Each of us is part of that word - we result from God's speaking, his breathing (ruah) into existence each human life. Thus, I will not return to God without succeeding in the thing for which I was created, for which I was sent. But we are not mere automatons - we are free. Thus, to succeed in this, I must discover/discern "that for which I sent it"-- in other words, what God's will is for me. I can only do this in a life of prayer - a life designed around listening. And how fraught with difficulty this is when I can barely be still enough to listen to that which is clearly in my environment. How more difficult will it be for me to listen for that "stills all voice" within? This day, then, I pray simply for the grace of being able to listen.

-- read Isaiah 55:1-13

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