“O Lord, you have searched me and know me.”
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”
“Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:1, 13, 16.
Last week we were reflecting on being known by God and the reality that he knows us better than we know ourselves. Our entire life story is being held by his single gaze of love. In Psalm 139 David celebrates in awe the wonder of God’s all-knowing gaze. “You have searched me and know me.” God’s gaze is penetrating. It’s also perpetual as David recognizes the graced watchfulness of God in all the mundane coming and going of life (139:2-4). David then lifts his own imaginative view to the infinite spatial dimensions that God inhabits (139:7-12). Not only is God present in these dimensions but he is intimately so. His presence includes the figurative element of touch, as well as guidance and security. “Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (139:10).
There are at least two other aspects of our being known by God present in Psalm 139. The first is that of the creator and the creation. “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex. Your workmanship is marvelous-how well I know it.”(139:13-14). In our human experience of creativity and art we recognize the intimacy of what’s created, whether in word, music or the visual, with the creator or artist. What is created issues from the very identity of the creator. David infers this same intimacy with God as the master creator, his creator, our creator.
What are the implications of this for prayer? In his book “Merton’s Palace of Nowhere”James Finley beautifully captures something of the intimacy that we’re invited to in prayer as we ponder afresh these familiar truths.
“In prayer we journey forward to our origin. We close our eyes in prayer and open them in the pristine moment of creation. We open our eyes to find God, his hands still smeared with clay, hovering over us, breathing into us his own divine life, smiling to see in us a reflection of himself. We go into prayer confident that in prayer we transcend both time and place”(page 32).
Here Finley also touches on the second aspect of our being known by God in Psalm 139, that of God’s eternal knowledge of us. Or as Finley says elsewhere, we’re “beloved from all eternity.” God knew us before we existed, before he called us into being (139:16). Contemplative writers speak of being “grounded” in God, or God as “the ground of our being.” God’s foreknowledge of us is one aspect of this. By God’s grace we apprehend its mystery in increasing measure and it becomes for us an anchoring understanding of ourselves as being known and held by God. Finley comments further:
“In prayer, distinctions like outside and inside, past and future, no longer apply. In prayer, we experience this going back to our origins as a going into the center of our self, where God holds both our origin and end in one eternal moment”(page 33).
The birth of a child is a breathtakingly sacred moment. It’s sacred with intimacy. In the mysterious environment of prayer we come to realize we’re similarly known and held by our creator. We say with David, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty to attain!”(139:6). Let’s enter prayer with a receptive and quiet heart in order to be nourished and fortified by the unseen wonders of God that both touch us and transcend us.
1.What aspects of God’s closeness and knowledge of you do you feel drawn to explore further and receive in prayer?
2. How do you understand God as being the “ground of your being?” What other images might describe your sense of being known and held securely by God?
3. Reflect on experiences you may have had in which you’ve been able to abandon yourself to the presence and care of God.
Take David’s words as your own in prayer, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty to attain.” Sit in stillness as much as you can with this sense of unknowing, allowing God in his own time to touch, enlighten and bless. Open your heart in praise to God.
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