Monday, July 20, 2015

Fear and Prayer

"I wonder if fear is not our main obstacle to prayer.  When we enter into the presence of God and start to sense the huge reservoir of fear inside us, we want to run away into the many distractions, which our busy world offers so abundantly.  But we shouldn't be afraid of our fears.  We can confront them, give words to them, and lead them into the presence of the One who says, 'Be not afraid.  It is I.'"  --Henri Nouwen, as quoted by Brennan Manning in Ragamuffin Gospel

Fears lose their power when we "give words to them."  Fear can be a looming sense of nebulous dread.  I find that virtually any fear of mine melts away, almost comically, when I put it into words.  Even if the thing I dread comes true, it typically brings me no real harm.

Fear easily hinders my prayer life.  My thoughts go in circles, and I cannot focus.  I become mentally exhausted.  When I should have been wrestling in prayer, I have merely been wrestling in my mind.  Naming or describing that thing I dread cuts it down to size.  No matter what the fear, it can never overwhelm Jesus.

When I put fear in its place, I am free to speak to God and to hear his voice.  Then I can really wrestle in prayer, with problems, decisions, and goals.  That wrestling is not easy, but it beats going around in circles, distracted from the heart of God.

He puts my fears in their place.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Fighting the Contempt of Familiarity

They say that familiarity breeds contempt.  I know young folks who don't want to get jobs at their favorite establishments, because they don't want to lose the exhilaration of eating or shopping there.  Workers at Starbucks can no longer smell coffee.  Workers at Christmas tree lots can no longer smell the Frasier firs.  When I worked at a bank, I came to hate the smell of money.

It's not just about the smells.  I wonder if cast members at Disney World soon lose the sense of magic in the Magic Kingdom.  When you are around something all the time, it loses its special feel.

Sadly this can happen in the kingdom of God.  Paid workers and volunteers in Christian ministries can get bogged down in routine operations and miss the wonder of the grace of God.  Even telling people about the grace of God can become routine.  We understand the mechanics of the work of Jesus and lose the wonder, gratitude and awe.

That's why I need to worship.  As our band sang a new song yesterday, the words penetrated my heart and reminded me of God's great sacrifice and love for me.  As we broke the Bread and shared the Cup, I experienced again God's grace.

I need it every day. 

Lord, save me from any contempt that might come from being close to you.