Spirit of Prayer

Readings and resources in the Spirit of Prayer—
Communing with God, others and self

He is the One whose voice comes from within— or from without. He is the Voice who comes as One: within and without. He is the Voice of now-then, the Voice of rich-poor, weak-strong. He is the Voice of hope, He owns the name of Love. He is the Holy, the Highest, the Voice of One calling, "Enter with Me; enter into Me." And I do so want (but not enough) to be there in the cool of the day, in the shadow of the Cross, as close as close can be in the Spirit of Prayer.

God Squanders His Love

My friends all said I was wasting my time and effort, and my money. I was being robbed blind, taken advantage of. They said he had made my house into a crack house. I could see that his friends were prostitutes. He couldn't get rid of them and I couldn't get rid of him. I was at the end of my rope but still could not bring myself to throw him out. I was wasting my resources and squandering my love. My friends said they were telling me this for my own good. Then they said they would pray for us.

Another friend, with every good intention, told me God would never bless me as long as I was letting these people walk all over me. "Your disobedience is causing you to lose your blessing," he warned. Others said similar. I felt alone; no one could bring themselves to lend their blessing. Almost no one. But there were a few. A few unchurched friends could listen and empathize. The ones who hadn't been taught the principle of discernment (read judgment).

How is it that so many of our Christian friends try to live by principles that tend to exclude others? They say they are being discerning. They say it's for their own good—if we are too nice to the recalcitrant sinners they won't know they are on the road to hell. Oh, won't they?

Or we say they should have to learn to stand on their own feet like we do, saying, "Why don't they just learn to be like us regular people?" Yeah, why don't they?

"No good deed goes unpunished," another friend said. It's a common saying—the most common cynical saying. And the most cynical common saying. We quote it almost like scripture; it's a proof-text for self-protection. And so we take measures. Next time we say we will get a background check on the person before we squander our love on them.

Then sometimes we go halfway—or think we do. Take for example the myriads of folks who show up at the side doors of churches asking for help. The story is always the same. "We are trying to get home to such and such a place and we ran out of money." So we do the easiest thing—hand them a voucher for a motel with which we have an arrangement and call the grocery to let them get a few staples. Fifty dollars laid out and our church door is undarkened again.

But we didn't waste any time on them. Or love. "Well," we say, "they don't want us preaching at them. They just want the motel room and to be left alone."

Then we go home and forget it. That is, until our teenagers get too rebelious, then we stop wasting our love on them too—and we call it tough love.

Do we think love is in short supply? That if we give out too much of it we will run out? Do we think we will have to say, "Sorry, we are fresh out of love."

Last winter Dr. Jim Harrison, an Aussie preacher, came to our church to teach some lessons. He expounded on the case of the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethsaida. He said as Jesus interacted with the man it became apparent the man was certainly not a member of the "worthy poor" or the humble disadvantaged. No, he was unthankful, rude, disloyal. When Jesus expressed an interest in him he told him off. "Do I want to be well? Duh! What's it look like? I've been waiting 30 years. I wait for days and weeks and then I'm expected to jump up on the shortest notice and run over to that pool before anyone else? How do you expect me to do that—I'm a cripple, you idiot rabbi."

Then Jesus healed him. He told him to pick up his pallet and walk, and behold he did it. Jesus had squandered His Father's love on an unworthy. Then the guy turned him in to the religious police. Not a high character. Not a good candidate for "church membership". But that's what God does—squanders His love on unworthies. Sinners, liars, cowards, thieves, prostitutes, hypocrites, unrecovering alcholics—those are the ones He wants His love to flow to. Even people who treat others like pieces of furniture—He is looking to pour out His love and blessings on such as these, on such as you and me.

Do we want to draw boundaries to wall these out? If we wall out the people whom God is seeking, if we judge those who God is looking to bless, then we will be on the one side and God and them on the other. We are the ones who will be walled out.

Joseph Perry
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And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born.
Zechariah 12:9-11

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Peter Taylor Forsyth

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