As you continue in this venture with Christ - this venture that began as a simple way of prayer - yet another experience may await you. It is this: Do not be too surprised if you find you are no longer able to offer up prayers of petition.
You may find that prayers of request become more difficult. Yes, it is true that in the past you offered up petitions and requests with complete ease. Until now, praying this way was never difficult. But in this new relationship with your Lord, it is the Spirit who prays! And as the Spirit prays, He helps your weakness. He is making intercession for you. And He is praying according to the will of God.
For we do not know how to pray as we should; but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26)
There is your will; there is God's will. There is your plan; there is God's plan. There is your prayer; there is His prayer. You must agree to His plans. He takes from you all your own workings so that His may be substituted in their place.
Let God do in you what He will.
In His prayers, which He prays, there is also His will. Let Him pray. Give up your own prayers; give up your own desires and your own requests. Yes, you have a will; yes, you have desires and requests. Nevertheless, let Him have the will, the desire, that is in the prayers He prays.
But this relationship goes even deeper.
In order for God to have that which is found in His prayer, then you, the one praying, must give up your attachment to everything. This means you must live a life in which there is nothing you want! Be attached to nothing, no matter how good it is or appears to be.
Now that we have explored some of the encounters you will have in this venture - some of the things the Lord will introduce to you and some of the things He will demand from you - let us set this section aside for a practical matter. As you have read in previous sections, there will be distractions, especially at the outset. And for quite some time afterward, your mind will be distracted from prayer. Let us take a brief look at this problem.
How do you deal with those things that distract; how do you handle those things that draw you away from the inmost part of your being? If you should sin (or even if it is only a matter of being distracted by some circumstances around you), what should you do?
You must instantly turn within to your spirit.
Once you have departed from God, you must return to Him as quickly as possible. There, once more with Him, receive any penalty He chooses to inflict.
But here is one thing you must be very careful about: Do not become distressed because your mind has wandered away. Always guard yourself from being anxious because of your faults. First of all, such distress only stirs up the soul and distracts you to outward things. Secondly, your distress really springs from a secret root of pride. What you are experiencing is, in fact, a love of your own worth.
To put it in other words, you are simply hurt and upset at seeing what you really are.
If the Lord should be so merciful as to give you a true spirit of His humility, you will not be surprised at your faults, your failures, or even your own basic nature.
The more clearly you see your true self, the clearer you also see how miserable your self nature really is; and the more you will abandon your whole being to God. Seeing that you have such a desperate need of Him, you will press toward a more intimate relationship with Him.
This is the way you should walk, just as the Lord Himself has said:
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you shall go. I will guide you with My eyes. (Psalm 32:8)
Temptations, as well as distractions, are a major problem you will encounter at the outset of your adventure into God. Be very careful in your attitude toward them. If you attempt to struggle directly with these temptations, you will only strengthen them; and in the process of his struggle, your soul will be drawn away from its intimate relationship with the Lord.
You see, a close, intimate relationship to Christ should always be your soul's only purpose. Therefore, when you are tempted toward sin or toward outward distractions - no matter the time, no matter the place, nor the provocation - simply turn away from that sin.
And as you turn, draw nearer to your Lord.
It is that simple.
What does a little child do when he sees something that frightens him or confuses him? He doesn't stand there and try to fight the thing. He will, in fact, hardly look at the thing that frightens him. Rather, the child will quickly run into the arms of his mother.
There, in those arms, he is safe.
In exactly the same way, you should turn from the dangers of temptation and run to your God!
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, and that right early. (Psalm 46:5)
You and I are very weak. At our best we are very weak. If you, in your weakness, attempt to attack your enemies, you will often find yourself wounded. Just as frequently, you will even find yourself defeated.
There is another way.
In times of temptation and distraction, remain by faith in the simple presence of Jesus Christ. You will find an immediate supply of strength.
This was David's resource and support:
I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore, my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; my flesh also shall rest in hope. (Psalm 16:8-9)
And again in Exodus, it says:
The Lord shall fight for you while you keep silent. (Exodus 14:14)
I would like to take this section to talk about a very important element in prayer, one that is almost totally overlooked.
If I were to say to you that one of the great elements of prayer is deep, inward worship, I am sure you would agree. We would both concur that without a deep, inward worship of the Lord we simply would not have real prayer. Real prayer, of necessity, has worship as its central element.
But there is another element to prayer, just as central, just as essential, as worship. And it is right here that we come to the central issue of man with God; moreover, without this element there is no real prayer; without it there can be no plunging into the very depths of Jesus Christ. Without this element there is no real prayer, no entrance into the depths of Christ, and no way that God can bring you to the ends which He plans for you.
And what is this aspect of prayer?
The giving up of self is a necessary part of prayer and of experiencing the depths of Jesus Christ.
(So once more we have stepped beyond prayer. Real prayer demands of the one praying that he utterly abandon self. Moreover, God desires that such a state ultimately become yours at all times.)
It is the Apostle John who speaks of prayer as being an incense - an incense whose smoke ascends to God and is received by Him.
Unto the angel was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints. (Revelation 8:3)
As you come to the Lord, pour out your heart in the presence of God. Prayer is the outpouring of your heart to Him. "I have poured out my soul before the Lord," said Hannah, the mother of Samuel. (1 Samuel 1:15) This outpouring is an incense, and this incense is a total giving of your self to Him.
The incense offered by the wise men, laid at the feet of Christ in the stable of Bethlehem, is a picture of outpoured prayer to Him.
What is prayer? Prayer is a certain warmth of love. Ah, but more! Prayer is a melting! Prayer is a dissolving and an uplifting of the soul. This warmth of love, this melting, this dissolving and uplifting causes the soul to ascend to God.
As the soul is melted, sweet fragrances begin to rise from it. These fragrances pour forth from a consuming fire of love...and that love is in you. It is a consuming fire of love in your inmost being, a fire of love for God.
An illustration of this incense, this love, and this pouring forth is found in the Song of Songs. The young maiden says, "While the King was at His table, my perfume gave forth its fragrance." (Song of Songs 1:12) Let us look at that scene more closely.
First, let us look at the table.
The table referred to here is the inmost part of your being, your spirit. And there in your spirit God dwells. Oh, when you have learned how to dwell there with Him, His divine presence dissolves the hardness of your soul. And as that hardness of your soul melts, precious fragrances pour forth from it!
Now look at the King. Look at "the Beloved," Upon seeing the Bride's soul melt, He speaks:
Who is this!...coming up from the wilderness like columns of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense? (Song of Solomon 3:6)
Now we must ask the central question: How does the soul ascend to God?
The soul ascends to God by giving up self, giving it up to the destroying power of divine love! Yes, giving up to the annihilating power of divine love!
This giving up of self is essential, absolutely essential, if you are to plumb, experience, and continually dwell in the depths of Jesus Christ. It is only by the destruction and annihilation of self that you can pay homage to the sovereignty of God!
The power of the Lord is great, and He is honored only by the humble.
Let us see if we can understand this just a little more clearly.
It is by the utter destruction of self that you acknowledge the supreme existence of God.
The hour must come when you cease all living in the realm of the self! You must cease to exist in self so that the Spirit of the Eternal Word may exist in you.
By the giving up of your own life, you make way for His coming! And it is in your dying that He lives!
Can this be made practical? Yes!
You must surrender your whole being to Jesus Christ, ceasing to live any longer in yourself, so that He may become your life.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3)
Pass into Me all you who earnestly seek after Me.
But how do you pass into God? By forsaking your self that you may be lost in Him!
You can be lost in Him only by the annihilation of the self. And what has that to do with prayer? The annihilation of self is the true prayer of worship! It is a prayer you must learn - learn in all the totality of its deepest possible meaning. This is the experience that renders to God, and to God alone, all "blessing, honor, glory, and power, forever and ever." (Revelation 5:13)
This experience, this prayer, is the prayer of reality. This is reality! Annihilation is worshiping God in spirit and in reality. (John 4:23)
All true worship is "in spirit." To be "in spirit," the soul is annihilated. "In spirit" you enter into the purity of that Spirit that prays within you; you are drawn away from your own soulish and human methods of prayer. You are "in reality" because you are placed in the reality of the all of God and the nothing of man.
Dear reader, there are, in fact, only two truths: the All and the Nothing.
Everything else is a lie. God is All; you are nothing. The only way you can pay due honor to God is by your own annihilation. As soon as this wonderful work is done, God moves in.
There is a principle of nature here: The Lord never allows a void or an emptiness in nature to remain. He comes to the place of nothingness - of emptiness - and instantly fills it with Himself.
He puts Himself in the very place of that which He has put to death!
But is not annihilation a bitter thing? Oh! If only you knew the virtue and the blessing which the soul receives from having passed into this experience. Taste it and you will be willing to have nothing else. This is the "pearl of great price," "the hidden treasure." Whoever finds it, freely sells all that he has in order to purchase it. (Matthew 13:44-45).
This is the "well of living water, which springs up to everlasting life." (John 4:14)
Do you recall that the Lord Jesus told us that "the kingdom of God is within us"? (Luke 17:21) This is true in two ways.
It is true first when God becomes the Master and Lord within you so completely that nothing in you resists His dominion. It is then that your inner being, your spirit, is His kingdom. That is when God possesses you.
Secondly, there is the matter of your possessing God. When we possess God, we also possess His kingdom; and in His kingdom there is fullness of joy. Our ultimate purpose is to enjoy God...in this life. To enjoy God! This is the very purpose for which we were created.
Alas, so few realize that this is attainable and so easily laid hold of.
To serve God is to reign!
Next week: Silence - In The Depths