Canaans Rest

Canaan’s Rest represents a quiet place “set apart” for the purpose of hearing God's voice, growing in intimacy with the Lord, and being renewed in soul and spirit.

Month: June 2011 (page 1 of 3)

July 1st

Devotions based on David Benner’s book, Opening to God

As we truly open ourselves to God it has a great potential for transforming our inner life and bringing new freedom to us.  When we are still before God we often find that He reorganizes our inner landscape in ways that we can not imagine. Sometimes it releases in us lots of emotion and we may have tears intermixed with joy and sadness as repressed memories may come into our consciousness. This isn’t the time to try to understand the things that float to the surface but simply a time to release them to God. It’s like we get a peek at the hidden work of healing He is doing in our lives. Healing though is a byproduct not the goal. The goal is to be totally open to God and to consent to God’s presence and action in us.  With the work of inner transformation through prayer we come to a deeper peace, joy and vitality. Prayer is not designed to change God. It is to change us! Sometime we block this transformation by being preoccupied with past psychological logjams, wounds that need to be offered up to healing, hanging onto spiritual practices that no longer bring life to us, etc. Let us turn to Him and let His life flow into ours, and release any obstacles so we may be transformed by His grace.

June 30th

Devotions based on David Benner’s book, Opening to God

Haven’t we all longed for a relationship with God that would be a part of our experience throughout the day regardless of what we are doing? Regardless of whether or not we happened to be thinking of Him  praying,or doing something else.  Jesus calls us friends ( John 15:15) and  He wants us to live in communion with Him throughout the day. Prayer expresses our relationship with Him and is a deep knowing of being in that relationship. God is present in all of life, even in the darkness. Etty Hillesum found God in the midst of the horrors of the Nazi roundup of Jews. When we are in hard circumstances we can ask Him, “Where are you now in my experience?  Unwelcome circumstances of suffering such as heart attacks, are not gifts.  But they may contain a gift, and the core of that gift is God’s presence.  As we live in openness to God it transforms our lives.  Let us be intentional about bringing more of ourselves into the circle of His love that is prayer and communion with Him. As we do this more of His love can flow through us to others as well.

June 29th

Devotions based on David Benner’s book, Opening to God

There is a prayer beyond doing and it is prayer of BEING. This is a prayer of simply being with God. It is an experiential knowing and resting in His presence. Usually this is called contemplative prayer and it is a way of opening our selves to something beyond ourselves. It is like looking through the eyes of wonder as we open our eyes to God. Contemplative prayer is wordless and a trusting openness to Him, who cannot be captured in words but who lives in us. It is a knowing that we are in God and God is in and with us in love. Being with God does not depend on words and words are even distracting. The goal is not elimination of words or thoughts but openness to God. “Contemplateve prayer is not the suspension of action or the elimination of thoughts and words, but turning toward God in faith and openness. The rest is up to God.”   The author suggests  praying the Jesus Prayer or  practicing Centering prayer but the key is simply spending time with God in inner stillness.  May each of  us make space for Him!

June 28th

Devotions based on David Benner’s book, Opening to God

Prayer is always personal and it is an expression of our heart and mind that is open to God in trust.  Most of us pray worded prayers and that is a good beginning point. The words we use will usually fit somewhere in the categories of expressions of our faith, praise, hopes, and petitions. But we must remember that prayer is not just what we do as what God does in us. It doesn’t matter if our prayers sound perfect and follow a formula, but it is important that we open our selves to God. Sometimes we use conversational prayers and sometimes liturgical prayers written by others. These can be equally personal if we offer them up as our own.  But if prayer doesn’t move beyond words, it will gradually dry up and become frustrating for us. We can pray with music that engages our emotions and body, as well as, other deep parts of ourselves. For some people the most meaningful prayer response is singing, playing, or listening to music that expresses words that they make their own.  Music can be used by the Spirit to touch us in the deep places and it can become a vehicle of communion with God.  Another prayer response might be to write a poem, paint a picture, create a dance etc. We are all called to be our unique selves and doing so is praying with creativity.  We might pray with our hands and make the sign of the cross, or using prayer beads. We might pray with our feet by taking prayer walks or pilgrimages, or walking a labyrinth.  Acts of service can be prayer, for when we give love to others in need, love is given back to God. Our role with prayer, as with love, is to allow it to flow through us rather than to block the flow. Let us embrace the ways God meets us in our uniqueness and create space for these encounters!

June 26th

Devotions based on David Benner’s book, Opening to God

In prayer we bring the mind and the heart to God in openness.  Mary, the mother of Jesus did this when she was told by the angel she was going to bear the Christ child. She received the news with her heart at first and then with her head she began to think through the implications for the message. Both her troubled mind and heart were prayer because they were shared in openness and trust to God. We also can share everything with God, who wants us to share our experience with Him and enjoy the communion that is prayer. Our imagination also has an important part to play in pondering prayer. When we ignore our imagination it is at the expense of a rich prayer life. One way we can bring our imagination into prayer is to enter a scene in a passage from the gospels with our imagination.  We can be there with the participants and hear the sounds and smells that are present, and be present to Jesus. Some have found it beneficial to meditate on Christian Art as Henry Nouwen did before the picture of The Prodigal.  In pondering prayer we can bring all that we have on our minds and hearts to Him and just share for He is already present

The Space Inside

Here is a quote from Augustine that I read some years ago.  At the time I know it was speaking to my spiritual condition, but I did not quite know how to make the application to my walk with God.  Here is the quote. “My soul is like a house, small for you to enter, but I pray you to enlarge it.  It is in ruins, but I ask you to remake it.  It contains much that you will not be pleased to see: this I know and do not hide.”

When I could finally begin to accept my own “dark side”, not pretending or denying that it was a part of me, I was able to look within myself and see the ruins that Augustine talked about.  The reality was that there was much that did not please my heavenly Father.  With Augustine I was able to start saying “this I know and do not hide.”  I was able to pray with the Psalmist. “When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder, my words became daylong groans.  The pressure never let up; all the juices of my life dried up.  Then I let it all out: I said, ‘I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to God.'” (Ps 32:3-5 – The Message) The pressure of trying to hide my darkness prevented me from experiencing the vitality of God’s life that was already within my soul.  Jesus tells us, “Live in me.  Make your home in me just as I do in you.” (John 15:4 – The Message)

In the denial of my inner darkness, I became focused more on me then on the presence of God within my soul.  This wrong focus shrunk my inner capacity to experience the presence of God.  My soul could only be enlarged when I was willing to explore all that God was showing me about my inner life.  I had to welcome the good with the bad, since the bad was really a part of who I was.  God was not asking me to change my inner life, to make more room for the presence of God.  He was simply wanting me to give him access to the various rooms were all the darkness resided.  He would do the cleansing and what I like to call the rearranging of the furniture so that I could receive the light of his presence.

I confess to the readers of this blog that I have a long ways to go in allowing God to enlarge my soul.  But I can testify that the freedom and peace that comes in the enlarging is a gift from God.  I cannot explain what happens.  All I know is that when I become more honest with myself, by getting  acquainted with my true self the closer I become to God.  For God dwells at the deepest part of who I am.  

This process is expressed well in these verses from the Message. “Here’s what I want you to do; Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God.  Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.” (Matt. 6:6 – The Message)   Oh, how true.  When I am willing to be alone with God, I learn to face my dark side.  There is no role playing before God.  I face the true condition of my soul.  In the process there is a shift from me to the actual presence of God within my soul.  

Another quote from Augustine in this regard has been very helpful for me. “Lord, I went wandering like a stray sheep, seeking you with anxious reasoning weighted within me.  I wearied myself much in looking for you without.  If only I had desired you, and panted after you.  I went around the streets and squares of the cities of this world and I found you not, because in vain I sought without for you who were within.”  Men, we can weary ourselves with a lot of religious posturing hoping to find peace with God.  Most of this posturing does little in our search for God.  We have to simply face ourselves and know that God waits for us in love within our own souls.

June 25th

Devotions based on David Benner’s book, Opening to God

Often we think of prayer only as talking to God. But “ Pondering prayer is talking with God about our thoughts, our wonderings, and our reflections on life experiences or challenges.”  When we ponder something we hold it lightly and give it space. We ruminate on it and think about it slowly and repeatedly. We don’t try to solve our questions or demand God for answers but just offer up our wonderings as a prayer to God. This can be in words or unworded.  Even listening to a sermon can be pondering prayer if our minds are open to God. Other ways are to meditate on scripture, ponder the words of the creeds, journaling, reflection, prayer walks etc. “Trusting openness of our self to God is what makes any moment a time of prayer.”  Let us think of what has been weighing on our minds or we have been carrying in our hearts and share it with God, asking Him to be part of the rumination process.

June 24th

Devotions based on David Benner’s book, Opening to God

“We can only truly see the things of God through the eyes of faith, and the eyes of faith are the eyes of God.”  The author gives 4 suggestions for cultivating prayerful attentiveness. I know I so often pray that I will be more attentive to God and not miss what He is doing and saying.
1. Make time in each day for pauses in stillness, using these moments for attentive prayer. We might want to say a brief prayer each time we find ourselves looking at our watch or sending an e-mail.

2. Watch for traces of Him in daily life. One way is to prayerfully review our day of how God was present with us.

3. Watch for traces of God in other people. As we look through Spirit-filled eyes and watch for the presence of God in others it will change the way we relate to them.

4. Consider taking a periodic spiritual retreat as a way of nurturing a life of prayer. We need times of stillness and solitude to shut out the many outer distractions and retreat to the secret place.

Let us receive the gift of attentiveness with openness to Him.

June 23rd

Devotions based on David Benner’s book, Opening to God

Attention is the best preparation for prayer. This is not the same as concentration but of prayerful openness. We need to pay attention to that which is within us and beyond us in the present moment. That means being open and receptive to the sacred. As we are awake, we move beyond our self- preoccupations to the things beyond ourselves. Paying attention demands that we be present to our selves in the present moment. We can’t pay attention to something that is past or in the future, but only that which is present now.  Our senses were also a gift to help us encounter God and to enrich our lives. They may be used to invite us to pause and turn to God. If we were to walk through a garden filled with the scent of flowers it may cause our spirit to soar and open up to God. When we were on retreat at a monastery the bells would ring at specific times to call us to prayer and to turn our hearts to God. Let us allow our senses to turn our attention to God. We will find He will help us to see through God’s eyes and hear through God’s ears.  Paying attention is a response to grace!

June 22nd

Devotions based on David Benner’s book, Opening to God

“We do not pray so we can get God’s attention. We pray so that God will get our attention.”  How important it is to be attentive to God so that His love will be a reality in our lives. Sometimes we may feel like God is absent but really it is we who are absent from Him. The author uses the illustration of a light bulb and how we know that when we turn a switch on that we have light because of the electric current. But that doesn’t mean that the power was around only when we turned on the switch. Behind and beneath everything and every moment is God. David had a great awareness of God and writes in Ps. 5 “To you I pray, Yahweh. At daybreak you hear my voice; at daybreak I lay my case before you and fix my eyes on you.”  David trusts that God is already listening for his voice and watching for him. Prayer starts with God who leans towards us and invites us to respond with openness. Let us pay attention to Him. For our spiritual lives will be no deeper than our capacity to pay attention.

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