Abiding in The Lord

Today Pastor Terry Tatum preached at Lynn Haven UMC on conversion and repentance. At one point he referred to himself as one who had come to see his ego “self” as one inch big in comparison to a prior opinion of himself as a super-hero!
It reminded me of a day when I was in heavy intercessory prayer with someone on the phone. We had been praying together probably 10-15 minutes when I became aware of a Presence beginning to draw around me. I experienced a feeling like physically shrinking ….God’s Presence was not threatening or harsh at all, but my sense of feeling myself shrinking in response to God was unexpected and disconcerting. I closed our prayer and hung up the phone. The feeling of shrinking stopped and the sense of God’s Presence disappeared. The sensation caused some inhibition and guardedness about deep intercessory prayer for several years. Eventually i decided to confront the aversion, knowing I was inhibiting my time with God. I talked to a contemplative prayer coach and chose a course of study in group contemplative prayer as a way of easing back into the deep end of the prayer pool. By that time I was employed in vocational ministry in my church and a parachurch ministry and was studying Christian education.

As part of the contemplative prayer process, each of us prayed during the week before our first session and asked God to reveal a “focus word” for the 20 minute session of silent prayer. The week we were beginning our group I felt God urge me to use the word “Give.” The word didn’t feel comfortable and I resisted it, asking God for another one. I didn’t feel I had anything else to give, was exhausted and I had wanted to come to this process to be renewed, not have more expected of me. But all week “Give” pressed in on me and I wondered what could God want from me… I thought I was “all in.” As I arrived at the session I surrendered to the word and set my mind and body in a relaxed sitting posture for prayer, and kept “Give” at the forefront of my mind. It was calming and uneventful. I was relieved. As we moved into a time of reflection we watched a brief video by a priest experienced in teaching this kind of prayer. At one point he said, “This time of prayer is not about us bringing anything to God. It is about us making ourselves available for God to give Himself to us.” In that moment I realized that The Great High God of All Things had not put the word “Give” upon me to ask for anything of me, but to encourage me to invite Him to be present to me in a personal and intimate way without me feeling overwhelmed. I cried to realize how I had misunderstood and had kept God at a distance because of my fear of losing my sense of self in the Presence of His INEFFABLE LOVE. I prayed that week to get my heart’s desires aligned to His, to trust Him completely, and to surrender my all. The next week He changed my prayer focus Word to “Gift.” When I came to the group the next week I felt His Presence as a comforting Abiding, His Spirit in communion with my spirit in a deeper way than I had known. God’s Presence is not at one’s command but happens sometimes as I am intentional in being present in the moment, God often makes Himself known as a Gift, the Divine Holy Being when I meditate on His Word, pray, worship, or come to the communion table. Sometimes, however, I find myself called to awareness of God’s Presence in unexpected moments and places. God may speak a few words in my spirit or a name, other times there may be a song that comes to my mind.

I continue learning to abide with my Lord, my God.