The Heartbeat of Prayer: Intimacy – August 18, 2023
I was introduced to a French Catholic mystic named Madame Guyon as a teenager 35 years ago. I carried a couple of her books with me to college and started reading one of them after my call into ministry. This book changed my life in many ways.
Madame Guyon encouraged the reading of Scripture very slowly and prayerfully as a way to enter into God’s presence and fullness. Prayer wasn’t a thing of the head as much as an exercise in centering your heart in Him, receiving His love, and loving Him back.
A couple of pages into reading one of her books, I realized I needed a quieter place to pray other than my rambunctious college house with 5 roommates. I remember Christ’s instructions on prayer in the Sermon on the Mount to “Go into your closet and pray” (Matt 6:6). Since I didn’t have my own closet, I did the next best thing.
There was a dilapidated shed in the backyard of the house that wasn’t used. When I looked inside, I found it was full of spiderwebs, old beer cans, and other junk. I took some time to clean it up and found a little wooden folding chair in the corner behind some boards. This became my prayer closet.
I still look back on these days with great fondness. The minutes turned to hours as I received His love for me in new ways. God gave me the grace to quiet my heart, still not an easy task for me now, and receive His love. It was in those moments he began to till the soil of my heart and prepare me for the life of a pastor.
These are some prayer practices from the beginning of this book that you can start today, if you like. The beauty of these words are in their simplicity and practicality, as you may notice:
When I speak of this “deep, inward relationship to Jesus Christ,” what do I mean? Actually, it is very simple. It is only the turning and yielding of your heart to the Lord. It is the expression of love within your heart for Him…
I give you an invitation: If you are thirsty, come to the living waters. Do not waste your precious time digging wells that have no water in them. (John 7:37; Jeremiah 2:13) [Experiencing the Depth of Jesus Christ, pgs 1,2]
Praying the Scriptures:
Turn to the Scripture; choose some passage that is simple and fairly practical. Next, come to the Lord. Come quietly and humbly. There, before Him, read a small portion of the passage of Scripture you have opened to.
Be careful as you read. Take in fully, gently and carefully what you are reading. Taste it and digest it as you read the Scripture. You do not read quickly; you read very slowly. You do not move from one passage to another, not until you have sensed the very heart of what you have read.
You may then want to take that portion of Scripture that has touched you and turn it into prayer.
“Praying the Scripture” is not judged by how much you read, but by the way in which you read. [pgs 7,8]
Beholding the Lord:
Next, while you are before the Lord, begin to read some portion of Scripture.
As you read, pause.
The pause should be quite gentle. You have paused so that you may set your mind on the Spirit. You have set your mind inwardly-on Christ. [pg 10]
23 years later Madame Guyon’s teachings continued to change my life in a different way. Christiane and I were on our first date at a nice restaurant in Portland, OR. I asked her the question “What books have you read lately?” (a pretty nerdy first date question, in retrospect)
Her answer: Madame Guyon’s book “Experiencing God through Prayer”. This stunned me! I had not met many people who had even heard of her. In fact, Christiane said it was a book she returned to multiple times over the years. I hadn’t read her books in a while, but I had been praying for a “woman of prayer”. I knew the kind of life I wanted to keep growing into, and the kind of person I wanted in my life. So, now I really wanted a second date, and I got it!
My point is that when we set our hearts to grow in intimacy with the Lord, prayer is the path we take. We can turn to those who came before us and find a lot of good (sometimes mixed with NOT so good) teaching. Ultimately, every good teaching will lead us closer to Jesus, the only one who perfectly taught us to retreat into times of silence and intimacy with the Father. That’s what Jesus, being God, did throughout his life and ministry in the flesh, and continues to do as he intercedes for us. The intimacy of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is what we are invited into, when we set our hearts in acknowledging His Presence. A praying community, a praying couple, a praying family will be one who finds their common bond in the love of Jesus. That’s what set us apart to love and support each other well, and reflect His love, power, and glory to others who may not yet know Him.
We will talk more about Lectio Divina and other practices, as we continue in this journey of spiritual growth. This is what I pray for our marriages, families, friendships, and our church. This is how we can be a “House of prayer for all people”.
Note: If any of this intrigues you, or you want to learn more, please find Christiane or myself in church this week, or give us a call or email. We would love to talk more about the joy of growing in intimacy with our Lord.
Blessings and peace,