In early December 2010, my friend Peg shared this prayer poem by Joyce Rupp:
God, open my mind and my heart.
Lift the barriers,
unbind the strong grasp of my demands
when I want everything to go my way.
God reach into my inner space
sweep out all my old clutter,
enlarge my capacity to receive.
God, empty me of whatever impedes
the growth of our relationship.
Help me to recognize and accept
your sources for my growth.
God, soften my resistance to emptying.
May I welcome each inner season
as a catalyst for my transformation.
O God, deepen my trust in you.
Ease my doubts, fears and discouragements.
When I am feeling vulnerable,
remind me that you are my safe haven.
God, may I be ever more rooted in you.
Draw me into solitude.
Entice me into endless encounters
where I experience oneness with you.
O God open the ears of my heart,
May I hear your voice within the silence
as well as within the noise of my life.
Re-awaken me so that I can listen to you
God of goodness, we yearn to be open and receptive
to your generosity.
May we trust your presence amidst the cycle
of emptying and filling.
I started to pray the above prayer in early December 2010 after Peg shared it at a Soul Care talk. I prayed it on average every other day, and even sometimes daily. I prayed earnestly but with a little trepidation as it reminded me of past prayers for patience.
Anyone who has been in relationship with God for a while knows what I speak of... God honors our prayers for patience by giving us difficulties, that you guessed it, try our patience! But the good news is if we turn to Him for help in the process, we will develop patience [and I wish I could say quickly ;-)...]
Imagine if you went on the TV show "The Biggest Loser" wanting to lose weight, but the moment Jillian or Bob, one of the trainers, started to make you work out till you sweated or had difficulty, you balked and refused to continue. You could, in theory, do that, assuming no contractual duties bar otherwise, but you would not lose weight. You wouldn't be cooperating with the trainers, who are trying to give you what you want: to lose weight.
Now back to the above prayer... I had no problem with the first half of the first stanza: "God, open my mind and my heart. Lift the barriers..."
But the second half says: "unbind the strong grasp of my demands when I want everything to go my way." Whoa! I confess that I want things to go my way. Yet, I know also (in hindsight) that I am glad that certain things didn't go my way. I guess that is one benefit of being older.
Anyway, God answered my prayer as I came down with a horrible cold a few days later. The cold lasted about two weeks and then became a lingering congestion. Many of my pre-Christmas plans changed. I was not happy.
I had had only had about two good weeks after getting off crutches, which I had been on for 3.5 weeks, so I was ready to tackle many unfinished projects.
But God had other plans. I did keep reminding myself that I should be thankful that what I was experiencing was only temporary etc. It helped but it was still a challenge.
Fast forward to 1/5/11: the continuing congestion became a 3 day fever, then a raging sinus infection and bronchitis. More plans changed. 14 days of antibiotics, various nasal sprays, an inhaler, and a sinus rinse twice daily.
I saw my doctor last Friday and was told that my infection was still not completely cleared. Another 7 days of antibiotics etc.
God was gracious as He knew that I struggle with "waiting" and "patience" so He sent me two preparatory messages on Thursday, before I saw my doctor on Friday. I studied Isaiah 40: 12 -31 on Wednesday, then I heard a lesson on Isaiah 40:12-31 and waiting for the Lord. On Thurday afternoon, my friend Jennifer sent an e-mail with an excerpt written by Henri Nouwen (one of my favorite writers) titled "Waiting for God."
God knew that my doctor would prescribe more antibiotics on Friday. I like to think that it was His way of preparing me for the unwanted message.
I am grateful to be less congested and more energetic. I am grateful for a wonderful doctor and access to medical care.
Yet I would really like to be able to smell again and to not be so tired. I felt guilty that I was not having a better attitude. What to do? I went to God and let Him change my attitude, because I can't change it myself and I have tried.
31Yet those who wait for the LORD
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary. - Isaiah 40:31 (NASB)
I will talk more in a later post about why "waiting" for the LORD is not a passive activity, like waiting to see your doctor, or waiting for a test result. The footnote in my Zondervan NASB Study Bible states: "wait for" is to "Trust in or look expectantly to." To me, that means, as we're waiting for whatever we're waiting for (e.g., a job, healing), we are do so with trust that God is working for our good even when we don't understand.
The footnote also says that "gain" means "Lit. 'exchange.' Their weakness will give way to God's strength (v. 29). The Hebrew for this verb is used of changes of clothes...which can symbolize strength and beauty." In other words, as I wait for the LORD, he exchanges my weakness for His strength.
Isa. 40:29 says, "He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power." I have found that to be true when I come to the end of my strength, and I ask God to give me the strength to be patient in whatever the difficulty may be- whether small or large. God is always willing to give me His strength but so often, I first try to do it in my own, and I fail. But failure is not terminal when one's failure causes one to turn to God. Failure given to God can be a doorway to greater intimacy with God. I have seen that in my own life and in the lives of others.
He is a gracious God and He longs to give us His strength but we have to be willing to declutter our souls of self-reliance and the demand that life go according to our plans.
I invite you to go to Him and let Him exchange your weariness for His strength and peace. We don't need to fix ourselves up and make ourselves presentable/worthy to Him. We can't. We only need to go to Him, and then cooperate with Him in the process of change.
In retrospect, God did honor my prayer by decluttering my soul of some impatience. It helped me to be more open to practicing gratitude with patience. Still in process.
Copyright Soul Stops 2011