On the north wall of my study hangs one of my favorite paintings of all time. It is St. Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata. Painted by Jan von Eyck around 1428-1432, it depicts St. Francis in such deep prayer that he received the stigmata, the actual wounds of Jesus Christ— when He was nailed to the cross.
Whether this actually happened is not the point. The point is this— that Francis was known as a man of deep prayer.
This begs the question of us. What is your prayer life like?
I refrain from wondering whether it would ever be to the depth of St. Francis. Our society moves far too fast for that.
But do we, as 21st century Christians, set aside enough time to enter into deep prayer? It is not an easy thing to do. So much becomes us to remain immersed in normal, human concerns.
Yet if anything is necessary for God to work His miracles through/in us it is the holy task of coming apart from our world for a time of deep, worshipful prayer. There is no substitute for it. NO substitute.
Too many of us have lost any ability to pray at all. It has been relegated to the status of filler in our faith and service. As was the case in many colleges & universities in the sixties, chapel service was mandatory. One chapel speaker grabbed me like no other. He stated emphatically that Prayer is NOT the preparation for the battle. Prayer IS the battle. From that moment on I started to change my attitude and practice of prayer.
Drawing aside for a couple of hours, or days, of prayer must be central to our faith. Otherwise, we will never engage those around us with the power of the gospel. It will, instead, remain mere words, mere explanation of facts.
We must become intrinsic vessels of Christ that hold His Truth deeply entrenched in every fiber of our being. Anything else would be a meagre transmission of data. This is not the gospel. The gospel must engulf us fully if it is to engage the hearts and souls of others.
In every sense of the word, WE ARE the Gospel.
One of my favorite quotes from Francis [now attributed to another.] is Preach the Gospel at all times…, when necessary use words. This cannot be accomplished without a basis in deep prayer in ourselves.
So, please, fellow Christ follower, give yourself over to secluded times of friendship with our Lord. It is exactly what each of us need. It is also what our pepole need in us if they are ever to see Jesus in us. Prayer is the presence and practice of Jesus Christ in us, flowing to others.
In deep prayer…
Loving God; loving people… and bringing the two together! ©
NEXT— no expectation that God is at work