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Personal Prayers

March 2006

Dear Friends,

The time we spent comparing Martha and Mary with ourselves got to many of us. There they were with this incomparably wonderful Visitor and - so understandably but regrettably - Martha was distracted by all the preparations she was busy making to help him.

It is all too possible to leave God in the very process of serving him. Busyness in the king’s business is no excuse for neglecting the king.

What one thing is needful? We wondered if Jesus was referring to Psalm 27.4. Amidst enemies and all sort of distractions and worries (v. 2 & 3), the Psalmist asked the Lord for one thing: to dwell in his house, to gaze upon his beauty and to seek him. That is what would keep him safe, above his enemies and full of joy (v. 5,6).

Well, how are we to do this? Here is one way, if getting back to Psalm 27.4 living is on your heart.

Stop, consider the shape of your day and decide when is the best quality time for you to engage in the following.

1. Greet God aloud and briefly praise and worship him. Ask his help to make this a real time and not to daydream.

2. Have a good hymn for the week and sing or say it to him. Find some way of meaning the words rather than saying them with the mind in neutral. For myself this might involve stopping singing and, bearing in mind that God is in the room, placing a seat opposite me and reverently saying the words to God as though he were visible in the seat.

3. If necessary, briefly confess any definite sins of commission or omission and then leave them resolutely behind, for ever.

4. Read a few paragraphs of a spiritual classic or other helpful book. For example, read just enough of Pilgrim’s Progress, Augustine’s Confessions or the like to have a unit of truth to savour.

5. Read a section of scripture using some sort of system, whether ‘Lifelines’ as here in the Record, or any method of doing it in a way that is planned and systematic. Respond in prayer: that is why I add ‘Pray’ to each day’s note in Lifelines.

6. Pray for others, preferably on some sort of rota. A list of the congregation is available in 1-31 form for use month by month. Pray for each person the lesson that was in your day’s Bible reading.

7. Pray for your own concerns and day’s duties. Using others' prayers, especially at times of dryness, guilt or misery, widens our horizon and vocabulary and keeps us going.

8. Close in doxology: ‘Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever...’

And the ambition in all of this? I quoted JDC Anderson again: There is a passion for Jesus Christ which sets those who have it apart for ever from their fellows.

'The trouble with the rest of us is that (like Martha) we are content to dwell in Jerusalem without seeing the face of the king. We are hard at work for him: the freighted hours rush by, leaving us scarcely time to give a thought to the lover of our souls who is longing for our friendship.

'And when we do go into the audience chamber we are burdened with requests - business that must be put through, guidance we need here, help there. All important, all worthy, but - just business after all.

‘But now and again - at rare intervals - one meets with someone who, like Paul, has looked into the matchless face of Jesus and who henceforth sees nothing any more save the face of his Beloved. There is a radiance about such a one, a glory shining forth’ which they are almost certainly completely unaware of.

'It was Mary’s devotion to the person of Christ that led her instinctively and unerringly to do the thing that pleased him..

'In our zeal for the better, are we missing the best? The word of our Lord to us is still, "he that loveth me shall be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.

‘There is reward for the obedient disciple, there are power and authority for the faithful disciple; but there is the whisper of his love, there is the joy of his presence, and the shining of his face for those who love him for himself alone. “To what profit is it that we dwell in Jerusalem, if we do not see the King’s face?”’

Yours sincerely,

C. Peter White

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