There are certain authors whose works I cherish; when read their descriptions of their own experiences of God, it as though I am praying along with them. Early on in my “revived” Christian journey I gravitated toward writers like Richard Foster, Evelyn Underhill, Thomas a Kempis and Thomas R. Kelly. Their writings each reflect years of listening to God and responding with obedience. As I prayed with them, my soul seemed to open up to God.
Because I am a bookish person, it took me a while to realize that there are certain people that are like that, too. They also encourage my soul, with a word or gesture. When I pray with the UMM prayer group, I hear in their voices the years of turning to God, opening self to God in as they lift the concerns of others. With others, praying one on one, I hear a desire to know God, a desire to understand God’s presence in this world. These passions are contagious.
I imagine this must have been what it was like for Jesus’ disciples. When with him, they tapped into Jesus’ relationship with God. No wonder they asked, Lord teach us to pray. What are the boundaries within which we can hear the “loving, caring, gentle presence of God” (135)?
Henri points out that Jesus learned obedience through his sufferings and struggles (136). As the writer of Hebrews points out, although [Jesus] was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered (Hebrews 5:8).
I think that’s what I hear in the voices of the authors and the prayer partners I treasure--their struggles to be obedient and listen to God, despite disappointments and experiences of loss. I hear in their voices the peace of time spent in God’s presence, the quiet certainty of knowing God as loving and caring.
Their words, their smiles, their tears point beyond themselves.
That’s who I want to be when I grow up.