Thursday, August 02, 2007
Thirsting After Jesus
Seeds of Desire
This week I have been re-reading Joyce Huggett's classic book on prayer, "Listening to God." It's been a good number of years since I last picked it up but doing so has been like renewing an old friendship. Her journey towards a desire for deeper communion with the Lord in prayer, which she describes in the book, has not been the same as mine. But we seem to share many of the lessons learned and the discoveries made.
One of those discoveries is that when the Holy Spirit plants in our heart the seed of a desire for greater intimacy with God the only thing that can satisfy our soul is to experience the love of Jesus in a deeply personal way. It is clear from Paul's prayer in Eph 3:14-21 that this was his desire for the Ephesian believers.
Song of Songs
Throughout Scripture, both in the Old and New Testaments, the relationship between God and his people is described in terms of a marriage. The word "bride" is frequently used as, sadly, is "adulteress" when there is a turning away from the Lord to foreign gods. In Paul's teaching on marriage in Eph 5:22-33 he makes it clear that marriage, including in the "one flesh" aspect of the relationship, is designed as an illustration of Christ's spiritual relationship with His Church. As Paul says, this is a profound mystery but, if the physical intimacy between husband and wife is intended as an illustration of the spiritually intimacy the Lord desires with His people, our longing should be to cooperate fully with the Holy Spirit in developing our prayer lives.
Many of us as evangelicals are uncomfortable talking about personal prayer in these terms. Perhaps the language sounds too close to that used in Catholic mysticism or monastic spirituality. But then we are faced with Solomon's Song of Songs. What is this account of passion doing in our Bibles? I have been told it is there to show us that physical intimacy between a husband and wife is a God-given gift to be enjoyed. If that is the sole reason for its inclusion then, we evangelicals, have an even bigger problem because, as Anne Atkins points out in her book "Split Image", the wedding doesn't occur until the end of chapter 3 and there is much love-making before that! The primary reason for the inclusion of the song in Scripture is that it is, like the relationship it portrays, an illustration of the depth of spiritual communion possible between the believer and their Lord.
Is it too indulgent for a Christian to take time simply to develop their love relationship with the Lord? Shouldn't prayer be for intercession on behalf of others? Wouldn't an hour that has been given to basking in the love of Jesus be better spent performing some act of service?
It is impossible to have an encounter with God and not be changed. The mark of whether genuine intimacy with the Lord has occurred in prayer (or whether it is purely a self-satisfied delusion) is the extent to which the rest of our lives are different. The evidence will be a greater awareness of sin and increased desire for obedience to the Lord; more heart-felt intercession; a longing for corporate worship; a passion for Scripture; and an increased, divinely inspired love for people which shows itself in practical ways.
Prayer College Assignment
Read Lk 10:38-42 and Jn 12:1-8. Mary is twice commended for putting time with Jesus before service for Him. Martha is focused primarily on service in both narratives. Yet it is clear from the account of Jesus raising their brother, Lazarus, from the dead (Jn 11:20-27) that Martha had genuine faith in Jesus. Are you satisfied with the balance of worship and service in your life?