‘I pray that your love will overflow more and more’ – Philippians 1:9 NLT
Our family enjoys walking, however many times we do not plan well. We end up walking further than we had planned with little or no provision. Time and time again we plan to go on a short walk and walk a much greater distance than we anticipated, usually without any water. One time we had to stop as it got to hot and as the family took shade under a tree I had to walk back home and get the car and water. I would not recommend this, but we tend to be slow learners.
As I turn my mind to the inward path to God, a pilgrimage is a more apt metaphor. The nature of the contemplative beckons us not on a short vacation but on a one-way journey to a new place where we hope to live the rest of our days.
On such a trip the decision about what we take and what to leave behind becomes even more crucial. In some regards this may not make sense, for the only provisions we can bring are ourselves.
But to enter the land of our soul – that interior dwelling place where we hope to become closer to and more intimate with God – Prayer becomes our passport and reflection our visa.
For many prayer began when with a childlike faith we prayed our first prayers as child before going to sleep. But prayer became a necessity when we received Jesus as our Lord and Saviour and began communing daily with the living Lord. Prayer goes beyond words when we knell in silence and let the power of God minister to our soul, the unspoken prayer of God of us longing for God and God responding as we consider such matters of the heart that can only be understood through His unfailing love.
Prayer is about communication and communication implies relationship and the glue that holds the relationship together is love. Prayer is about nothing if not love.
Reflection allows us to meditate on the beauty and goodness of God as we humbly acknowledge all His ways. We receive gifts of wisdom and insight from God (often through words and deeds of others) and we make these gifts bestowed upon us our own. Reflection also turns the light inward into our soul and we see the ways in which we fail to live up to our potential as children of God.
Reflection also mean silence. The space we create so that our eyes are free from images and our ears free from sounds, allow us to reflect the things of God in our hearts. This is the space of silence.
As prayer and love combine and reflection and silence connect these become the provisions we need to enter into the dwelling place of God.
But there may be other provisions that may need to be considered for the journey.
I would like to suggest the following
- A contrite heart – Contrition is feeling sorry for our sins and we all have to face the reality that some of the things we do, whether by choice or by chance, end up causing harm to others, even those we love. Psalm 51 shares such insight for us on how David came before the Lord in contrition and sought forgiveness after the visit from the prophet Nathan who exposed his sin with Bathsheba.
- Compassion – returns us to love for the real meaning of compassion may involve feeling pity or suffering alongside another, where neither of those acts are possible without a basic sense of love for others.
- Intentional longing for God – takes us back to the beginning of our quest recognising that it is through our longing that we discern God’s call. We hear the call only because God has had a deep longing for us from the very beginning.
Longing for God is an expression of our love for God; compassion is an expression of our love for others; and contrition, when balanced and healthy is a dimension of appropriate love for self.
As we step out on this spiritual journey, all God asks for is love as we search for the dwelling place where God alone rules. We can be quite sure that we can find it. For if our heart is completely devoted to God our heart itself is this treasure, this very kingdom which we desire.
Our journey is an inward journey – we are seeking not, something far away or beyond ourselves but something found within our hearts. Love and silence guide our path and are the keys that open the hidden places before us. Whatever else we need to take are simply variations of these two essentials.