Monday, 16 September 2013

Prayer in dark places- Let nothing startle you

The past few months have been trying for both Al and myself. But like most of life it's been filled with some incredible highs. We are now proud grandparents of a gorgeous little girl and baby boy and oh my do they tug at our hearts strings. We are both besotted.

During this time, Alan has had some worrying health problems culminating in a pacemaker fitted just over a year ago. We hoped that was the answer but quickly realised that his problem with his memory and moments of confusion had not stopped.

A few more months and return trips to GP and Hospital and we are given a diagnosis of Epilepsy.

This happened on the afternoon that I had been to my own appointment with the gastric team to find out what was wrong with me. I had worrying symptoms for approximately 3 months and when they persisted I finally took myself to see the GP.

The reason I hesitated was, 1. I am stupid  and 2. I lost my sister to bowel cancer.
So this day was not one of our favourite as you can well imagine.

Al and I lead a lovely church here in West Yorkshire and we are privileged to share life with a group of folks who like us have their share of highs and lows. You realise very quickly that you cannot be blasé with people's lives and their stories.

I have been a pilgrim on my faith journey for many years, every part of the process has equipped me for where I have found myself these last few months. There are times of sheer terror in life when your fears overwhelm you, maybe like me you find this is usually at 2am in the morning. This is when you try to put into practice the faith you have told people about, this God who is omnipresent and close to you at these times, this God who is omnipotent and can heal and change all your circumstances instantly.

What you realise is more often than not this is not what happens, the reality is you find yourself alone and praying with prayers you struggle to articulate.

Lord please heal me/heal them
Lord take away this pain
Lord hear my prayer

The Internet has opened a whole world to me I have learned so much that had stretched me and grown me on my faith walk. But it has also shown me my privilege.

I hesitate now to use the words,
Even 'Child of God'

How can I when I read about and see those held currently in slavery, those sex trafficked across our world, child labourers, child soldiers. The wars in Syria, Iran and Iraq and the Congo to name a few.

So over this past year when pressing needs and real health issues and various other concerns have come up; and when I have been asked to pray for difficult and what would seem impossible needs I have had to find new ways to engage in this process.
Not flippantly or with the hyperbole of faith that I grew up with and still see on my Facebook and twitter news feed. That God 'always heals' when that's clearly not true. That everything turns out for good, again clearly not always what happens for many folks. That God is always on our side, when sometimes we surely do not feel this in our circumstances.

For me my journey my faith walk has had times when I have not known how or what to pray. Then I discovered prayers and writing that began to give words to my lack, to restore passion and faith to my walk. That spoke of the reality I have found in life and led me back to the God of my youth who truly is my 'strong tower'.

This beautiful prayer came into my world after reading it in the brilliant book 'A year of Biblical womanhood' by Rachel Held Evans

Let nothing trouble you,
let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing;
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who possesses God lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.
St. Teresa of Avila

Let nothing trouble or startle you, God alone is enough came to my mind when troubles caught up with me. These are not glib words or hyper faith statements but carry weight and meaning at moments of crisis.

I read about 'thin places' a term used in Celtic Christianity. I loved this, I loved that I could find a connection with the divine in the most dark and lonely times. Also in the most ordinary and mundane places like cooking a meal, taking a walk etc.

One of these long nights when sleep eluded me yet again I read on a wonderful blog by Micha Boyett About a site called 'Pray as you go', I clicked onto the site and found a 10 minute song, prayer and bible reading for each day.

I then heard this beautiful song from Psalm 57

'Have mercy on me Oh Lord
Have mercy on me
My soul has trusted in you

And I'll wait in the shade of your wing, until the terror has passed
And I'll wait in the shade of your wing, until the terror has passed

Have mercy on me
Have mercy on me
My soul has trusted
Has trusted in you'.

Steven Faux
This became my prayer in the dark of night I would run into the 'shade/shelter of Gods wing Until the terror passed.
The word mercy in Hebrew translates, 'lean towards me oh God' and terror/calamity translates to 'rushing', so my prayer became, Draw near me Lord until I find a place of stillness/calm in You.

I cannot pray the triumphalist prayers anymore, but I can anchor my thoughts in a God who the Psalmist tells us is a 'strong tower'. I cannot pray with the same certainty but I do believe in a God who walks with you in the dark places.
I know that there are breakthrough moments where I have found heaven has touched earth with an answer or word that reminds me 'God is near'.

Wherever you find yourself today I leave you with this prayer

Take, Lord
Take, Lord, all my liberty.
Receive my memory, my understanding, and my whole will.
Whatever I have and possess,
you have given to me; to you I will restore it wholly, and to your will I utterly surrender it for my direction.
Give me the love of you only, with your grace, and I shall be rich enough; nor do I ask anything besides

St Ignatius Of Loyola