Finding Rest in God’s Presence: insights on prayer from O. Hallesby

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I came across these striking words from Ole Hallesby in his classic work Prayer, published in 1931, about resting in God’s presence in prayer, even without words. I found them helpful for me as we continue to walk through this very challenging time and may need to encounter true peace and rest in God.

Prayer is really an attitude of our hearts toward God. As such it finds expression, at times in words and at times without words, precisely as when two people love each other. As conscious personalities we must and should give expression to our attitude and words one to another. It is this faculty which lifts the fellowship of human beings to such a high plane and makes it so rich.

But at the same time let us remind ourselves that life, in the last analysis, is inexpressible. There is something in our lives, also in our fellowships, which can never be formulated in words, but which can be the common experience, nevertheless, of two who share with each other everything that can be expressed in words.

In the souls fellowship with God in prayer, too, there are things which can and should be formulated in words. We have spoken of that in the preceding. But there are also things for which we can find no words. Likely it is this to which the apostle makes reference when he speaks in Romans 8:26 of “the groanings which cannot be uttered.”

My little boy came in one day and stuck his little head into the doorway of my study. Now he knew that he was not supposed to disturb me during working hoursMy little boy came in one day and stuck his little head into the. And his conscience troubled him a little on account of this. But he looked at me nevertheless with his kind, round baby eyes and said, “Papa, dear, I will sit still all the time if you will only let me be here with you!”

That he received permission when he approached my father-heart in that way, every father knows.

That little experience gave me a great deal to think about.

 it’s not that just the way we often feel with regard to our heavenly father? We do so love to be with him, just to be in his presence! Moreover, we never disturb him, no matter when we come in or how often we come!

We pray to God. We speak to him about everything we have on our minds both concerning others and ourselves. There come times, not so seldom with me at least, when I have nothing more to tell God. If I were to continue to pray in words, I would have to repeat what I have already said. At such times it is wonderful to say to God, “May I be in thy presence, Lord? I have nothing more to say to thee, but I do love to be in thy presence.”

We can spend time in silence together with people whom we know real well. That we cannot do with others. We must converse with them, entertain them either with interesting or profound things as the case may be. But with our own dear ones we can speak freely about common and insignificant things. In their presence, too, we can be silent. Similarly, it is not necessary to maintain a conversation when we are in the presence of God. We can come into his presence and rest our weary souls in quiet contemplation of him. Our groanings, which cannot be uttered, rise to him and tell him better than words how dependent we are on him.We can spend time in silence together withWe can spend time in silence together with people who we know

As evening drew nigh, and our little fellow had played until he was tired, I noticed that he drew closer and closer to his mother. At last he found the place where he was longing for, mother’s lap. He did not have a great deal to say either. He simply lay there, and let his mother caress him to sleep.

We, too, become tired, deadly tired, of ourselves, of others, of the world, of life, of everything! Then it is blessed to know of a place where we can lay our tired head and heart, our heavenly Father’s arms, and say to him, “I can do no more. And I have nothing to tell you. May I lie here a while and rest? Everything will soon be well again if I can only rest in your arms a while.”

A Resurrection Prayer inspired by the prophet Malachi

Lord of Hosts, you are our great King,
and Your Name is exalted among the nations.
You are the God of love and justice,
the God of faithfulness and generosity.

As with the people of Malachi’s day,
we face our human limitations
and failures most every day,
but particularly in times of trouble.

We admit that our hearts grow cold
in prolonged waiting for You,
and that sometimes we even turn away
from Your will and guidance.

Help us, Lord, when darkness drowns the dawn.
Give us hope’s clear vision of Your promise
that the sun of righteousness will rise upon us
with healing in its rays.

All this we pray, through Jesus Christ,
Our High Priest and Perfect Sacrifice,
to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit
be all honor and glory, now and forever.
Amen.


This is part of a series of posts with prayers based upon the message of the Minor Prophets:

A Prayer inspired by the prophet Haggai

LORD of hosts,
Almighty King of all the earth,
You are worthy of all our praise
and deserve the best of what we have to offer.

Help us to give careful thought to our ways,
that we may not be found wanting
in presenting all of who we are
and all of what we have to You.

In Haggai’s day, You called the people to rebuild Your house,
strengthening them to accomplish the task by Your grace.
In our day, help us to hear Your calling for the church,
and strengthen us to accomplish that calling by Your grace.

May no opposition overcome us
and no circumstances dissuade us
from giving ourselves fully to You
and Your mission upon earth.

All this we pray, through Jesus Christ,
to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit
be all honor and glory, now and forever.
Amen.

Senior Pastor Video Update in the Time of COVID-19 (March 25, 2020)

Here is my latest video update for Eastbrook Church as we navigate the time of COVID-19. I will continue to re-post these weekly video updates here at my blog for those who have not seen it or who are not part of our church but could use the encouragement. You can watch it here or at the Eastbrook Church Vimeo channel.

I also encourage you to watch the video of our worship team leading the song “Way Maker,” from this past weekend’s service. It is such a powerful song, particularly during these days.

 

 

Taking Shelter in God: reflections on Isaiah 25

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You have been a refuge for the poor,
a refuge for the needy in their distress,
a shelter from the storm
and a shade from the heat. (Isaiah 25:4a)

This chapter from Isaiah’s prophecy speaks to the restoration God will bring for His people even as “ruthless nations” rise up against them. Isaiah speaks of both a future restoration as well as a present help from God that is rooted within God’s “perfect faithfulness” (vs 1) and sovereignty (“wonderful things planned long ago” – vs 1). We see here that the overriding vision of God gripping Isaiah’s heart and mind transforms his outlook on the present circumstances. Let’s consider again the phrases Isaiah uses to describe God in verse 4:

  • “a refuge for the poor”
  • “a refuge for the needy”
  • “a shelter from the storm”
  • “a shade from the heat”

Isaiah reminds us that in a wide variety of circumstances, both natural and social, God protects and keeps His people. It is not a question—”will God do this?”—but an expected certainty—”God will do this.” At the same time, notice what Isaiah does not tell us here. He does not say, “Because you trust in God you will never face distress, meager times, storms, or heat.” Isaiah is not so unrealistic in his faith as that. He has weathered his own storms, and is facing some when writing these words. Instead, he reminds us that when stormy times come upon us, God is with us and available to us as a trustworthy refuge, shelter, and shade.

Isaiah continues his prophecy with images of restoration that we later encounter in the final book of the New Testament (Isaiah 25:6-8; Revelation 21:1-5). John drew upon Isaiah’s words in the closing chapters of Revelation, and so they are familiar to many of us. These images depict darkness’ removal like the lifting of a shroud, death decisively swallowed up, tears wiped away, and disgrace eliminated. Such beautiful imagery grabs our hearts and fills our imagination with hope. When our present circumstances resonate more with darkness, tears, death, and disgrace, it is good to read again words filled with such ebullient hope. Isaiah speaks with prophetic power that our dark circumstances are not the end of the story, whether our story or that of the broader world. God is still at work.

The critical calling in all of this for us is to trust God. “In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him” (Isaiah 25:9). As it did for Isaiah, what characterizes God’s people in distress, storms, and heat is their overriding vision of God that shapes their outlook through trust in God. In this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are easily overcome by anxieties about what will come, confusion about how to live in the present, and paralysis about what to do and what not to do. Every day the news changes, leaving us like a boat cast upon rough and stormy waters. This is the natural reality of being human with all our limitations.

However, the question that each of us must answer is what we will do when these anxieties surround us. Will we let them overwhelm us so that our outlook is shaped more by our circumstances and the anxieties that so readily result from them? When it comes down to it, what will shape our vision and outlook in life?

In a sense, we have entered into the moment of our faith’s testing. Although it may sound simplistic, do we trust only what we can see or do we trust the Living God? “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). Certainly faith also sees what gathers around, but that is not all the eyes of faith sees. When our overriding vision is of God and not just our circumstances, we know we can bring our anxieties and fears to God in prayer. That movement of faith to reach out to God enables us to encounter God as our refuge, shelter, and shade. We move forward driven by faith—active trust in God—and not by fear—agitated anxiety about our circumstances. In these days all of us need that reminder again and again. I believe this is at least part of what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote from prison to the Philippian church:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

We have entered into a time of deep distress that will mark our lives in many ways. But take heart, my friends, our God is with us as “a shelter from the storm.”