“I pray that my ways may become firmly established so that I can obey your laws.” Psalms 119:5
Two baby birds fell from their nest in our porch as they were unable to fly. We found them among our plants in the driveway from their chirping and put them back in the nest. For three days we had to pick them up from our garden and even in the drain outside our house. I was thinking of getting a bird cage to keep them safe but felt led to message my small group to pray for them. To my surprise, one of them was able to fly soon after and the other, a couple of hours later. Later that day I was convicted by the Holy Spirit through the following verse in one of the books that I was reading:
“What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin ? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-31 NLT
I had felt foolish about asking my small group to pray for the birds but the Lord was teaching me an important truth about prayer enunciated by John Stott:
“Prayer is the very way God has chosen for us to express our conscious need of Him and our dependence on Him.”
To be conscious of God’s presence and power we need to experience God’s miraculous interventions. And for a miracle to occur in our lives we need the deep conviction that what occurred was an act of God – a direct intervention of God on our behalf in response to our prayers. We do not pray to get God to do what we want but to experience His loving Presence embracing us so that we can live a life of faith and not be enslaved by fear.
A living faith, according to Jean-Pierre de Caussade, is the steadfast pursuit of God through all the things that seek to disguise, demolish and destroy our faith in God. He encourages us to accept each moment as a revelation from God:
“Love and accept the present moment as the best, with perfect trust in God’s universal goodness……Everything without exception is an instrument and means of sanctification…..God’s purpose for us is always what will contribute most to our good.”
In fact, it is God who is pursuing us, but like Adam we are hiding from Him. We need to cultivate the habit of silence to be still to hear God’s whispers of love in a noisy world where silence is drowned. We need to experience the Holy Spirit as the breath of God filling us with the spiritual oxygen of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self control. As we become aware of the thoughts flowing ceaselessly through our minds we can practice breathing out the spiritual carbon dioxide of lust, guilt, fears, anger, envy, greed, acedia, pride, and gluttony:
“Breathe on me, Breath of God, until my heart is pure,
Until with thee I will one will, to do and to endure.”
It is not easy to practice silence but it is a habit we need to develop to rewire our brains. Without silence, “ourlifebecomesajumbleofletters” – we need the blank spaces to read: “our life becomes a jumble of letters.” God is always speaking but we cannot understand what He is saying to us when we do not moments of stillness in our lives. The practice of silence is not a skill to master but a habit to develop so that we can be mastered by the Holy Spirit through silence.
Practising silence is the most concrete and simplest way to express our intention to seek the presence of God. But it requires humility and perseverance to wait on God. It may appear to be a “waste of time” when it seems like we are doing nothing with God and God is doing nothing with us. But as Thomas Merton reminds us, it is only when we give ourselves fully to God that we can receive from God:
“We receive enlightenment only in proportion as we give ourselves more and more completely to God by humble submission and love. We do not first see, then act: we act, then see…..And that is why the man who waits to see clearly, before he will believe, never starts on the journey.”
So let us pray for the practice of silence to be firmly established in our lives so that we can live a life of joyful obedience to God.