“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” Luke 6
There are many people who are attracted to contemplative prayer– people who identify closely with the goals and teachings of those who have journeyed deeply in the pursuit of God. The sales of books on finding God through contemplative prayer are increasing dramatically as whole sections are dedicated to this topic in most bookstores these days. But what strikes me, as I meet with people for spiritual direction, is how few of these people who feel such resonance with the objectives of prayer actually spend time in the discipline of prayer. There is a big difference between hearing Jesus’ call and responding to that call.
Granted, Jesus’ statement here is meant to apply to all his moral, ethical, social, and spiritual teachings but the principle at work is also true as it applies to our prayer.
I play flute. I’ve read many great books over the years about how to play the flute. Books will tell you everything you need to know about how to place your mouth properly over the mouthpiece, how to hold your fingers in order to maximize speed and agility, how to breathe properly so that as little air is wasted as possible and even how to phrase a line of music so that it will sound most pleasing. As good as these books may be, there is nothing but the practice of playing the flute that will ever teach a person how to be at one with the instrument. You have to get to know your own relationship and learn how to work with it before you can make music.
There were perhaps many in Jesus’ day who loved to hear the Master preach. They loved being called to walk closer to God. What a beautiful invitation it must have been to hear Jesus’ descriptions of the kingdom of heaven. It fills the heart with a warm sense of welcome. We are comforted by the knowledge that we are truly loved by a God who desires intimacy with our lives. But, as beautiful as that invitation is, we will never live in it until we respond to the call. It doesn’t matter how often we hear it, at some point we have to do it in order to enjoy it. Perhaps this is the same challenge Jesus put to the rich man in Matthew 19.
“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
This man desired to ‘enter life’ but stopped short of actually taking the step of commitment to fully following Jesus.
You have to go through the stage of falling asleep or daydreaming while you’re praying.
You have to go through the stage of the idea of prayer seeming like watching paint dry.
You have to go through the stage of wondering what it is you’re supposed to be expecting or experiencing.
You have to go through the stage of feeling like you’re a loser at this and that you really don’t know how to pray.
Taking time in prayer establishes the foundation of relationship with God, and leads us into an awareness of God’s presence in every minute of our day, but it is not gained easily, as the saying goes. God invites us, encouraging us to come further. The reality of the effort required is worth the prize!
Welcome to the journey of truth.
Rob and Ruth Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Communities
For Group Discussion:
- How is your ‘practice’ of prayer going these days? Where do you find freedom or discouragements?
- How do you relate to your struggles in prayer? What is your typical response?
- Take a few minutes to be reminded of times when you have experienced an intimacy with God which encouraged you on in your journey.
For Prayer: God, I desire to know you more—help me in my weakness of time and commitment. Open my heart to your invitation to enter into your love.