Summary: The fourth tradition of the church is the contemplative tradition or the prayer-filled life. Here we explore what this means and how we can integrate this tradition into our lives.
Streams of Living Water
Deep Pools of Prayer
October 31, 2004
Our fourth stream or tradition in the flow of the Holy Spirit’s river is the prayer-filled life or the contemplative tradition. It is out of this tradition that all the other traditions have their foundation. For it is only by learning to be in God’s presence that we can live the holy life or be filled with the Spirit of God or be empowered to live the compassionate life or even hear what God says through His Word. This is why the title is deep pools of prayer. For it is coming before God to hear the still, small voice of God that we make a connection deep within our souls. Rather than rushing water, the imagery is of a serene quietness.
We heard from Ecclesiastes earlier and going before God without a whole bunch of words or an agenda and just being in God’s presence. The motivation for entering into the presence of God is love, God’s love within us. Turn to 1 John 4:16.
A family went to dine at a restaurant and the six-year-old boy was asked to say the blessing.
As they bowed their heads he said, “God is great. God is good. Thank you for this food. And I would even thank you more, God, if Mom bought us some ice cream after dinner with liberty and justice for all. Amen.”
This brought several chuckles from other customers and also one strong remark from an older woman seated nearby, “That’s what’s wrong with this country. Kids don’t even know how to pray. Asking God for ice cream! Why I never!”
Tears welled up in the little boy’s eyes as he exclaimed, “Did I do something wrong? Is God mad at me?”
The mother reassured him that he had done nothing wrong and that he had done a great job as an elderly gentleman walked up and said, “I happen to know that God thought that was a great prayer!”
“Really?” asked the little boy.
“Cross my heart,” answered the man and with sly grin nodding toward the woman, “Too bad she never asks for ice cream. A little ice cream is good for the soul sometimes.”
Of course, mom bought ice cream for everyone. The little boy stared at his ice cream for a moment. Then he slid out of the booth, took his ice cream and placed it in front of the older woman.
With a big smile he told her, “This is for you. Sometimes a little ice cream is good for the soul and my soul is good already.”
Let’s read 1 John 4:16-21.
John is saying that it is our love for God the drives to seek out His presence. And in turn it is His love within us that drives us to love one another.
Jesus sets the model for us, as He would often withdraw into lonely places to spend time with God. We often call this prayer but in reality this is worship and prayer combined.
Now here is the key to the prayer-filled life. Are you ready? Somebody tell me that you are ready. Are you ready?
Prayer Is Not an Important Thing.
Bet you didn’t know that. How many of you thought differently? It’s not an important thing.
Prayer Is Essential.
It is the primary thing. Without it nothing happens. Without it nothing matters. If we are not expressing our love for God to God in prayer and worship then we do not have love and everything that we say and do is like a clanging gong.
I love what Richard Foster says in his book Streams of Living Water about the prayer-filled life. It is “the steady gaze of the soul upon the God who loves us.” That’s rich. That’s powerful! The steady gave of the soul upon the God who loves us.
Let me share with you some of the characteristics of the prayer-filled life.
Characteristics of the Prayer-Filled Life
Through time and experience we sense a deepening love for God. It becomes not something that we have done or that we can cross off our spiritual checklist. It is a gift. A gift of grace that we feel so unworthy to have received. In these times of communion with God, one feels complete.
At first we may experience a great deal of fluctuation – hot & cold, high & low. However, if we persist and diligent seek out times of solitude and community expressions of prayer and worship, our love grows deeper, stronger, and more steady.
It is during these times that we know a peace that we can’t explain. It passes understanding. It is not due to the absence of worry but rather due to His holy Presence. In the beginning, this peace may be interrupted by multitudes of distractions but as we discipline and train ourselves, we learn to focus on God and quiet the clatter of our noisy hearts.