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Consider the Eagle, Part 2~~Strength Through Prayer

    Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up on wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31.

    Many of us come to a situation in our lives where we do not know the way forward. I am one such person. I have sensed that I am not in the right place, or the right job, or the right house, or the right church or relationship problems have totally drained me. I am tired, often totally exhausted, and at the end of my tether. My emotional, spiritual and often physical tanks are running on empty.

    This is exactly the situation into which this verse speaks. It is the place we all have to be, in order to be willing to wait on the Lord. Admitting I am at the end of my human resources and aware of my own lack of knowledge, I finally realize my utter need to depend on the Lord and to listen to what the Spirit is saying. I become aware of false motives, inner desires, my own sinfulness and human inadequacies. I begin to empty myself of these things because I realize that they must go, for me to move on to the next stage of faith to which I am being called.

    Hearing from the Lord is the goal. I put all else aside. My burning passion is to do the will of God. Nothing else. Nothing more. This leads me into a state of realizing my need of the ancient spiritual disciplines ~ prayer, fasting, meditation, reading the Holy Book, silence, solitude, simplicity. I know that it is only through these measures that I will be able to hear God speak, far from the maddening crowd. I truly want nothing more than to �tune in� to what God is saying to me. Eugene Peterson reminds me that �the task is not to get God to do something I think needs to be done, but to become aware of what God is doing so that I can respond to it and participate and take delight in it�.

    I enter a stage of waiting. Waiting prayer is a type of praying which has a specific focus of its own. In the gospels, different people used different waiting styles in order to encounter Jesus and have their need met. When I look at the recorded stories, I notice that body language is a very important part of the waiting experiences. Body language is an interesting phenomena, and the best selling book of John Piesse, �Body Language�, shows that people are realizing that a person�s body language will display motives, inner attitudes, incentives, and the message that body language conveys is actually far more likely to be an accurate measure of what the person thinks, than what the person actually SAYS.

    In the days of Scripture, folk were far more �in touch� with messages from body language than we are today. That is why we read of David dancing naked, Jeremiah sitting in ashes, David kneeling before the king, etc. We are told of the bodily posture, and that indicates the person�s DESIRE, without the need for verbose explanations.

    When applying this concept to the waiting prayers in the Gospels, it is interesting to note three different body postures, which were employed when waiting upon a word from Jesus. Sue Monk Kidd explores this thread in her book �When the Heart Waits�, and she suggests three styles of waiting prayer.

    The first is the prayer of GOD praying for US. When I need to regain strength, I am tired. I am weary. Often I am in a state of spiritual confusion or disillusionment. In this state of body, heart and soul I am in no condition to find words to express to my Father what is deep within. So I simply rest. My attitude of heart is one of simply doing NOTHING! I rest in the strong and mighty arms of the One who sustains me at all times. Inwardly I am leaning on the Everlasting Arms. I am resting in the shadow of his wings. I am resting �secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders� (Deut. 33:12). St. Paul knew about this when he encourages: �Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words�. (Romans 8:26). Note � the Spirit HIMSELF � for US!

    Jesus often reminds us of our need for rest. �Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. So God himself holds us at this time, doing the praying for us � it is all God�s doing and creating. We can ultimately never transform or heal or change ourselves � it is God the Creator who works from within us to bring about His divine plan of restoration and transformation.

    To rest and allow God to speak requires a stillness of heart, mind and body. It is a most gentle and releasing time of deep relaxation, and in this state I begin to tap into those deep Eternal reserves which have been there, but I have been too busy or pressured to be aware of them. I do not have the strength to even find the words, but in an amazing way the singing of a bird, or the awareness of my breathing, and the rising and falling of my chest, seems to become a prayer all of its own. I realize that I am truly praying, but not my words � those of Christ drawing me quietly into the new life he has already waiting for me. The strange, awesome drawing of the heart towards God is quite strong, and I sense the breath of God breathing new life into me.

    Another heart attitude or posture for waiting prayer will gradually follow this resting prayer. As my reserves are filling up, and my energy is returning, so my hope renews itself. I am again able to reach out to God, in a gentle quiet hope of how he will show me what he has already purposed for me. So this is a posture of the beggar � cross-legged and sitting on the ground, with hands outstretched, palms open, in a posture which indicates many things which are in my heart.

    Firstly, I know that of myself I can do nothing, so this posture indicates that inner poverty of Spirit. I am sitting on the ground � indicating a heart of humility before God, fully aware that of myself I deserve nothing or can attain nothing.

    I am sitting cross-legged. Once mastered, this is actually a posture in which the body can remain still for lengthy periods of time. When visiting eastern countries we may observe Buddhist monks and beggars and many spiritual pilgrims adopting this position. It is relaxing on the body, yet keeps it alert. It is difficult to fall asleep sitting like this! So my heart is ready to wait for the long haul, if necessary. I am resolved to wait in hope and trust that eventually my Lord shall come, as he did when he walked to the temple gates and passed the beggars in this posture.

    This brings me to the third attribute I see in this heart posture. I have open hands. I am as a beggar, withholding nothing and also ready to receive WHATEVER it is that my Lord may put in my palms. And I know from deep within my soul that whatever it is, I shall be grateful and appreciative. No beggar is ungrateful, no matter how small the offering. So I must wait for God to place in my hands whatever it is He so desires, knowing that this shall sustain me and meet my need. This implies faith, trust that at some stage, something will be placed in my open cup-shaped hands. To doubt the length of the wait at this stage is something I struggle with. I remind myself of all the beggars of the world, who must also fight with doubt, never knowing how long they will wait, and wondering if anyone will ever come along and give them some food, or a few small coins.

    I am reminded of blind Bartimaeus, who sat like this is the darkness of his lack of eyesight, and I feel like that too, in a spiritual sense. I am totally in the dark, and waiting for light to come into my heart. Waiting for God, the Light of the world, to enlighten me, to delight me, to give me light about the task he will place in my hands.

    Finally, as I receive what the new direction is, it comes into my hands with the depth of gratitude of a waiting pauper, too. I really and deep dwon to my core am aware that this new gift is something OTHER, which is something extraordinary and incredibly precious. This gift, being filled into my hands, overflows my heart and mind with the enormity of my gracious God, who has once again come to me. and gifted me, filled me, enlivened and overflowed me with the sustenance which I will need for the next part of my journey. As a beggar receives food or money in his hands for the next day, so I know that this new offering from my Lord, is my new spiritual food, which will contain the gifts and the spiritual fuel and all that I will need. I am thrilled to look at what the Lord has given me. I adopt a third posture, that of adoration, sitting at Jesus feet in loving thankfulness, wishing to enjoy all this new power and hope and joy which he has brought and placed within me . This posture is one where I am awake, listening to every word my Master will speak to me, and alert to every gesture he may convey. I soak up all of what the Lord has done in me.The awareness that this new direction, energy, giftedness, is not from me or of me, brings me to a place of adoration, and gratitude. I will come again to remember this time if I stumble in the future.This is the place of great joy and thankfulness wells in my heart. All I want to do is rejoice and worship. The image of God as my Shepherd who supplies my every need, and satisfies my deepest longings links me with David, the Psalmist, who wrote, "Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for He is our God and we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care". (Ps.95:6,7).

    � 2006 Christine M. Jones

    Droplets from Life
    I would love to hear your responses, comments or input in any way. Please contact me at: christinesdroplets@yahoo.com.au

    Christine Jones is married to David. She has two adult children and precious grandchildren. She has worked for many years as a school teacher/librarian, and written children's material for several years in her 'spare time'. She loves nature, music and the theatre.

    John Mark Ministries