There are times when the Lord reminds us of how we got to where we are in our relationship with Him. How we arrived at the degree of maturity we now enjoy. In those moments the Holy Spirit reminds us of where we learned certain things that are for us now, just the way we now naturally see things and live life. He reminds us that there was a time when what is now so natural was awkwardly and painfully new.
Let me give you a real life example from my journey of salvation.
When I think about prayer, I do not think of it as something “I am doing,” but something the Holy Spirit is accomplishing — being and then doing — in me. It is, in other words, Christ Jesus who is praying in me by the agency of the Holy Spirit. I do pray and my prayer is the prayer of Christ Jesus. I do not mean I imitate or mimic Him. No, it is He Who prays in me and that is, mysteriously, my substantial prayer.
It is hard for me to conceive of prayer in any other way. Now, there was a time when that was not the case. I saw prayer as something “I did” albeit by the power of the Holy Spirit. But, it was still somehow separate even though it was by grace.
So, the question is, “When did that conceptual shift take place?” I read a passage yesterday that served as the Holy Spirit’s reminder that that shift occurred when I was in seminary. It occurred when I read a book entitled, The Go-Between God, by John Taylor published in 1972. I still have my copy from the mid-70’s somewhere among all the boxes of books in my garage!
The point is that I now pray a prayer every morning as part of my morning prayers that articulates this very point. But, if I am honest, I cannot say that I learned this concept when I found that prayer although it felt that way. No, the real beginning of the realization, the planting of the seed that has been bearing fruit for the last 15 years or so, was planted back in the mid-70’s.
Here are both the passage from The Go-Between God that was the original seed and the fruit of that seed in my life, the “Morning Prayer of Philaret of Moscow” which Christ Jesus prays in me every morning….
The prayer of the first Christians was simply a reflection of the living Christ in their midst. It was prayer ‘in his name’; and by this, we mean not that a formula was added at the end of every petition, but that in all their prayer they joined themselves to the prayer of Christ himself, and knew that it was his spirit which prayed in them. The best worship they could offer was simply his self-oblation in them. Praying in that Spirit, the Christian’s prayer is immersed in the ocean of the Son’s communion with the Father: ‘Praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God.’ And again, ‘Keep your watch with continuous prayer and supplication, praying the whole time in the Spirit. With constant wakefulness and perseverance you will find opportunity to pray for all the Christian brethren.’ ‘We do not even know how we ought to pray, but through our inarticulate groans the Spirit himself is pleading for us, and God who searches our inmost being knows what the Spirit means, because he pleads for God’s own people in God’s own way.’
To live in prayer, therefore, is to live in the Spirit, and to live in the Spirit is to live in Christ. I am not saying that prayer is a means or a method which we have to use in order to have more of Christ in us or in order to be more fully possessed by the Spirit. I am saying something simpler and more fundamental: to live in Christ is to live in prayer. Prayer is not something you do; it is a style of living. It is living under the witness which the Spirit bears with our spirit that we are children of God. Such a witness lays upon us the aweful freedom of adult sonship. Prayer is our response to both the privilege and the responsibility whereby we cry Abba, Father! To engage in the mission of God, therefore, is to live this life of prayer; praying without ceasing, as St Paul puts it, that is to say, sustaining a style of life that is focused upon God. This is indeed to engage in the mission of the Holy Spirit by being rather than by doing. To realise that the heart of mission is communion with God in the midst of the world’s life will save us from the demented activism of these days. The Go-Between God, by John Taylor
O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace. Help me in all things to rely upon Your holy will. In every hour of the day reveal Your will to me. Bless my dealings with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul, and with the firm conviction that Your will governs all. In all my deeds and words guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforseen events let me not forget that all are sent by You. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering or embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of this coming day with all that it will bring. Direct my will, teach me to pray, pray You Yourself in me. Amen.