“Desperately seeking God”
What would we think if we saw this request in the personal column of our local paper? Desperately seeking God for ___. We can fill in the blank with those things that reflect the needs of the human heart—financial security or emotional wholeness, food and lodging or creature comforts, our daily bread or deliverance from evil.
All these qualify as valid requests we can make known to God (Phil. 4:6). Today, however, we are invited to move from our “needs-based” method of prayer to a more robust and satisfying “prayer-filled life” that will lead to greater intimacy with God (James 4:8). What exactly is the prayer-filled life?
The Contemplative Tradition and the Prayer-filled Life
In Streams of Living Water by Richard Foster, the prayer-filled life is called the Contemplative Tradition. Foster describes it as “a life of loving attention to God.” Imagine, “loving attention to God.”
It includes not only the activity of prayer but also periods of solitude and meditation in which the presence and fellowship with the Lord is nurtured.
It can be likened to the Lord’s encouragement to His disciples to “abide” in Him (John 15: 4, 8). Jesus describes His intimacy with the Father through the image of the “vine and the husbandman”. It was through Jesus’ union with His Father that He was able to do all things (John 5:30). Jesus desperately sought God.
Practicing the Presence and the Prayer-filled Life
Father Lawrence described the prayer-filled life in Practicing the Presence of God. “Practicing” is the recognition of God intimately present with us and addressing ourselves to Him every moment.
Prayer is considered “divine conversation” that occurs throughout the day—not exercised as an isolated activity or relegated to a specific place. Prayer is continuous and never ceases (1 Thess. 5:17). Father Lawrence desperately sought God.
David and the Prayer-filled Life
David serves as our biblical example of one who sought the prayer-filled life. Throughout the Psalms we can experience the passion and appreciation David had for his private time with the God of Creation (Psalm 19).
As a shepherd boy, he experienced extended periods of solitude and fellowship with the Great Shepherd (Psalm 23). In the wilderness of Judah, David’s soul “thirsted” for the Lord and longed for the time he could return to the Temple to reunite with Him (Psalm 63). David desperately sought God.
Which description is right?
Descriptions of the prayer-filled life differ in method and experience. “Loving attention to God”. “Divine Conversation”. “The soul’s thirst for the Lord”.
However, what these descriptions do have in common is the results—greater intimacy with the Lord. This is the offer of a prayer-filled life; one that is more relational and less transactional.
Unfortunately, the distractions of this life, our weakened flesh, and the deceitfulness of Satan continually draw us away from a prayer-filled life. Left unchanged, we will continue our intermittent prayer routine while Jesus invites us to return to our First Love (Rev. 2:4).
Psalm 42:1-3a offers an excellent illustration of what the prayer-filled life looks like.
“As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night.”
Let us learn from the deer and seek God. It is in pursuing and lingering in God’s presence that the prayer-filled life is experienced. It is in Him, that our desperate seeking ends.