From The Suffragan Bishop of Grimsby The Rt Revd Dr David Court
‘Prayer is the heart’s true home. But, you see, we have been in a far country. It’s been a country of climb and push and shove. It’s been a country of noise and hurry and crowds. The heart of God is an open wound of love because of this distance and preoccupation of ours. God mourns that we do not draw near to him. God weeps over our obsession with “muchness” and “manyness”. And God is seeking after us. God seeks us like the father rushing out to embrace the prodigal. God seeks us like the woman who will leave no stone unturned in her determination to find a lost coin. God seeks us like the shepherd searching, searching for one last sheep. God is seeking us. God invites us to come home: home to where we belong to serenity and peace and joy: home to intimacy and acceptance and affirmation’.
So writes Richard Foster in his book Prayer, and which is quoted again in a book on spiritual disciplines by his son Nathan (The Making Of An Ordinary Saint). Exploring the classic spiritual disciplines afresh – submission, fasting, study, solitude, meditation, confession, simplicity, service, prayer, guidance, worship, celebration – Nathan Foster makes the point that it is so easy to approach the disciplines as a checklist. A checklist that either makes us proud if we think we have achieved them, or downcast if we think we have failed – and we miss the point that they are not intended to be ends in themselves but simply means of drawing us closer to God. The God who longs to have that intimacy with us.
It reminds me of one of my favourite quotes from CS Lewis: ‘This is my endlessly recurrent temptation: to go down to that Sea (that is God) and there neither dive nor swim nor float, but only to dabble and splash, careful not to get out of my depth and holding on to the lifeline which connects me with my things temporal’.
Prayer, the disciplines – not ends in themselves, but a means by which we enter into that deeper intimacy with God that he longs for each one of us. That’s God’s longing – and that’s the adventure he invites us to journey in.
With every blessing,