A Naked Intent Toward God

Like a newborn baby rooting around by instinct to be reunited with my mother, I am forever seeking the secure covering of the swaddling blanket, to be held tightly by the everlasting arms to the life-giving, comforting breast of God. 

All my bones will say, “LORD, who is like You, who delivers the afflicted from him who is too strong for him, And the afflicted and the needy from him who robs him?” Psalm 35:10 (NASB)

“All my bones will say.” That phrase stuck out to me. How can my bones praise God, cry out to God? I’ve read of my soul crying out to God, but my bones? The Hebrew word is etsem (עָ֫צֶם) and it also means substance or essence. My very essence cries out to God. Beyond where my thinking or feeling resides, my essence praises God, cries out to God, seeks after God, as the “naked intent” written about by an unknown monk.

Therefore what time that thou purposest thee to this work, and feelest by grace that thou art called of God, lift then up thine heart unto God with a meek stirring of love; and mean God that made thee, and bought thee, and that graciously hath called thee to thy degree, and receive none other thought of God. And yet not all these, but if thou list; for it sufficeth enough, a naked intent direct unto God without any other cause than Himself.i

My essence yearns with a naked intent toward His essence. Julian of Norwich also wrote of this.

God will be known; he is pleased when we find our rest in him. All that falls short of him will never satisfy us … And I saw quite clearly how much God is pleased when a person comes to him in all simplicity, as it were quite naked, unafraid and trusting.ii

Naked, but unafraid and trusting, like the newly created in the Garden. Before there was anything in between, before there was the veil caused by sin that separates. That is what I yearn for. Wordsworth wrote of a deep remembrance of that time before the separation from our true home.

Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home
–William Wordsworth, Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood 

Like a newborn baby rooting around by instinct to be reunited with my mother, I am forever seeking the secure covering of the swaddling blanket, to be held tightly by the everlasting arms to the life-giving, comforting breast of God.

“Imagine a child finding his mother again after he is born: tasting her not in the amniotic salt of womb water but in the honey of her milk, and hearing her not in her nearby heartbeat, but in the clear sounds of her laughter and speaking and singing. Or imagine him trying to find her in the night, rooting through blanket folds guided by the combined scents of her breath, her hands, her clothing, and the lingering touch of lavender. Imagine him learning to call her to himself with his own new voice.” –Suzanne Guthrie, Praying the Hours

We don’t need many words to do this. Babies don’t have many words. Bones don’t have many words.

“A monk I know once told me about a woman who complained that she had ‘run out of prayers to say.’ He responded, ‘Ah good! Prayer is what happens when you run out of words.’” –Suzanne Guthrie, Praying the Hours

 Let me run out of words, go beyond words. Let me recognize the longing of my heart, of my very bones for You. Let me yearn for You Lord with my essence. Let me thirst and crave your Presence as much as You crave mine.

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. 1 Peter 2:2-3 (NIV)

As the deer pants for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. Psalm 42:1-2 (NLT)

Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being (all that is within me, my center), praise his holy name. Psalm 103:1 (NIV)

And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last. And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. Mark 15:37-38 (NASB)

(Photograph copyright 2018 Derek Bair)

 

Froggy

He had known I would do this dumb thing and He had heard my one-word prayer before it ever entered my mind to say it. And He had answered it, a week ahead of time.

And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Matthew 6:7-8 (NASB)

Many years ago, my son had a little aquatic frog. He had raised it, literally, from a tadpole and loved it. “Froggy” would delight us by appearing to clap his hands when fed, moving the food into his mouth. Unfortunately, Froggy was a messy eater and the water in his little aquarium needed to be changed often. Froggy had to be caught in a net and kept in another bowl while the aquarium was cleaned and refilled. This was usually my son’s job.

Well, one day Froggy’s home was very dirty. We just had not had time to deal with it. Now my son had to run to school and I was late for work. But, it just couldn’t wait any longer, so I promised him that I would clean out the aquarium before I went to work. I was really late though, so I thought, “I’ll just pour some of the dirty water off the top and add some clean water for now.” Unfortunately, as I tipped the aquarium into the sink, Froggy jumped out, flopped around a couple of times in the sink and went right down the drain.

I was aghast. I can’t even think of a word to describe how horrible I felt. My son’s little Froggy, that he loved so much – gone! And all my fault! I fell to my knees and cried out one word, “Jesus!” And Jesus was instantly at my side.

Now I need to flashback a week or so. The pipe around the S-trap under that sink had been leaking badly and my husband finally had some time to work on it. But the pipes were old and rusted together. He worked all day to remove the S-shaped pipe. It could not be cleaned and reused, and he was exhausted. While he took a break, I headed to the hardware to get a replacement. “Be sure to get another metal one,” he called after me (we were restoring an old house and my husband is a purist).

However, at the hardware I was told they did not have any metal S-traps in stock right now, but they did have some very nice PVC traps with easy twist-off and on slip-nuts. Just wanting to be done with it, I bought the PVC pipe. My husband wasn’t very happy, but he screwed the trap on and turned on the water. Voilà, no more leak! Done.

So, a week later as I cried out on my knees, I felt Jesus presence there beside me and I felt Him say, “Look in the S-trap.” I jumped up, easily unscrewed the trap, and looked in. There was Froggy looking up accusingly at me. I carefully moved him to a separate, safe container, and cleaned the aquarium the right way. It wasn’t until I was on my way to work – praising God, very late but not caring one bit – that I realized what God had done.

He had known I would do this dumb thing and He had heard my one-word prayer before it ever entered my mind to say it. And He had answered it, a week ahead of time. He had done it using an irritating leaking pipe and a very long frustrating day (which included not a few grumblings and complainings). I would never have been able to remove the rusted pipe myself. Froggy would have been gone and my son would have been heartbroken. But God cares, God hears, God knows what we need before we even ask Him, God answers!

Thank you, Lord, that you know what we need before we even know or ask. Help me to remember your answers to prayer. Help me, in the midst of troubles and problems, to be on the lookout for an answer to a prayer not yet needed or said. Help me know that, though I can’t see it, you are always working for my good in everything. Thank you that you are always here with me.

Photo by David J. Stang [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Xenopus_laevis_4zz.jpg

In the Morning Let Me Hear

In the morning let me

(shama) hear, listen to, obey, agree with, yield to your
(checed) unfailing love, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, mercy, pity, for I
(batach) trust, have confidence in, am bold and secure, in you.
(Yada) Show me, teach me, make known to me, help me to understand, discern, perceive and see, find out, recognize, admit, acknowledge, confess the
(derek) road, way, path, journey, direction, manner in which I should
(halak) walk, live, go, move, proceed, be lead,

for to you I lift up my soul,
You I long for, desire.

Psalm 143:8

 

Photo copyright Jack Bair

Every When

It’s not easy self – listen self I’m talking to you! – but open your mouth and start praying, start thanking him, start praising him, start giving out his love to people, and he will give you the strength and grace, even more than you need.

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up (despair, be discouraged, become faint, be weary, fail in heart). Luke 18:1

The word translated “always” in this verse is the Greek word “pantote” and literally means “every when,” i.e. at all times, at any opportunity, all the time, evermore.[i] At every when we are to pray and not give up – when we are depressed, when things look hopeless, when we have no friends or support, when we fail, when others fail us, when they turn against us, when we are angry and frustrated, when we just don’t get it, when we are in need, hungry, desperate, when our dreams are shattered and our hearts are broken. At every when we are to pray and not give up or give in to despair, discouragement, weariness, faint-heartedness.

Here are other things we are commanded to do at every when:

Be joyful always. 1 Thess 5:16[ii]

Rejoice in the Lord always. Phil 4:4

always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Eph 5:20

Let your conversation (speech) be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Col. 4:6

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 2 Cor. 4:10

Always give yourselves fully to (abounding in) the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Cor. 15:58

See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. 1 Thess. 5:15 (NASB)

Therefore we are always confident (of good courage, of good cheer, bold) and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. 2 Cor. 5:6-7

And if all that seems impossible, it’s because it is impossible – for us, by ourselves. But our Lord does things too at every when:

And God is able (has the power) to make all grace abound to you, so that always – at every when! -having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance (superabound, have an excess, more than you need) for every good deed. 2 Cor. 9:8 (NASB)

Therefore he is able (has the power) to save (to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction, to make well, heal, restore to health, deliver, protect, make whole) completely (completely, perfectly, utterly) those who come to God through him, because he always – at every when! – lives to intercede for them. Hebrews 7:25

But thanks be to God, who always – at every when! – leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. 2 Cor. 2:14

He is able! Abound! Superabound! More than you need! Triumphal! That doesn’t leave much room for failure. But we have to remember – and I’m talking to myself here above all – we have to remember that He is able, He has the power, He is the Wonderful one (Isaiah 9:6). He’s always up there praying for us. “I can do all things (have strength to overcome) through Christ who strengthens me” Phil. 4:13 (NKJV). It’s not easy self – listen self I’m talking to you! – but open your mouth and start praying, start thanking him, start praising him, start giving out his love to people, and he will give you the strength and grace, even more than you need.

There is another verse that uses pantote in the Bible. It reflects his great heart of love, that we should always be in his Presence, every when, at all times, at any opportunity, all the time, evermore:

Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 1 Thess. 4:17

 

Image from Flickr, Praying Woman Hands by Long Thiên

[i] All definitions are from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible and Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament

[ii] All verses from the New International Version unless otherwise noted