Here’s something that I have just this minute realised. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say here’s something that has – just this minute – been made real to me: the best gift, sometimes the most expensive and sacrificial gift, and yes, sometimes the easiest and most accessible gift, that I can give to anyone is a prayer. Or many prayers. My prayers. My heart.
Thoughts that flit into your mind without any preparation are pretty amazing. Today I’ve been a bit pre-occupied and distracted by prayer, in amongst all the ordinary stuff of life. I was super glueing ‘no parking ‘signs (my days are full of zany what-the-hell stuff like that) and being really careful not to stick myself to the table, when it just came to me “The cost of prayer is the gift you give, day in and day out, for the people you love.”
Prayers aren’t the gift. The gift is the cost of those prayers. I can stand on the edge of the sea and burble a great long shopping list of prayers every morning, babbling like the heathen. Loadsa words. Some quite long ones. I can dot them with thees and thous and Bible verses. Easy. That’s not a gift to anyone. The cost of prayer, that’s the gift. The meaning and the heart break of prayer. The desperation.
It’s the gift I can give to those I love, the gift I can offer to God, but most of all it’s the gift He gives to me. Prayer is His gift to us. It’s our time beyond the curtain, in His presence, intimate, honest, real. Our private audience – what a stonking gift that is!
Prayer costs. It can bring us to tears, sometimes tears of joy, praise and wonder, yes, of course, but sometimes we weep in desperate earnestness, caring, sorrow, contrition. Bloody hell, the world we live in, the world from which we launch our prayers – how can we not weep? When our vision clears in quiet committed moments of prayer, and we see the world for what it is…. Flip me! Lord, look at us! Look at the state of us! No wonder we can’t always come before you in calm and logical reason. Look what we’ve done to the world, the perfect creation of God, the milieu You called ‘good’.
Look at how we fail Him. Over and over. How then can anyone always come before our God in perfect peace?
So, just like you, I don’t. Sometimes, yes, but not always. It’s a hushed and sacred prayer when we come before God in peace and calm and joy. Unspeakably wonderful. But man, when the experience of prayer is different, when it’s amazing and heart breaking and sharply real and dazzlingly shocking …. when we look up and see Him in all His glory and love, and recognise in those moments, our own utter dependance and vulnerability, and – of ourselves – our inadequacy. The poor witness we give, the slap-dash service, our tepid love. That’s a stunner.
I have several friends, blog readers, who like to put things right, to level stuff out, fill in the potholes of my reasoning. Comforters who always comfort, teachers who always teach, correctors who correct. I love you all. I do. Mostly. But listen, it’s OK to be brought to tears by prayers, it’s OK to be heart broken when we look on our God and then on the world, it’s more than OK to be moved by a sense of our own inadequacy, to be distressed by our half hearted commitment, our lack of devotion and woolliness of purpose. Don’t misunderstand me: I do not despair. I don’t.
Despair has no place in the life of Christ.
I don’t like grabbing a verse out of context and brandishing it at you, but here I go… it’s my go-to book, Isaiah 22:4
Turn away from me;
let me weep bitterly.
Do not try to console me
over the destruction of my people.
Here’s the thing, I want to pray on the edge. I’ve been embarrassed recently because I sometimes weep when we pray. I’ve struggled in prayer meetings and worship because of that. But no more. If I cry, tough. Get over it. I’m happy to weep. It’s not a big noisy thing, a few snotty sniffles… the odd escaping snort…. shouldn’t disturb the world too much.
I don’t enjoy crying. It’s messy and tiring, but it’s honest. And I think it comes from God. The old Luce wouldn’t weep. What, tough, grizzled old walnut-heart Luce? She wouldn’t shed a tear. No way. But now, with Christ in the centre of her heart, sometimes she does. Sometimes.
God wept. As man He wept. We have our emotions and we have our small heart-breaks and we weep. Even as we weep, we hand all our cares to Him, asking only to love Him more, serve Him better, know Him deeper….. asking for more and more and more, and if knowing more of God’s heart brings tears… well, there you go! Bring ’em on!
You know what? They won’t last for ever:
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Revelation 21:4