Wednesday, January 23, 2019
WHEN THE MIND STRAYS IN PRAYER...
Christ’s presence in practicing these disciplines is essential, if they’re to remain a source of nurturing our spirituality. In fact, our whole life in Christ is best understood and lived in the same way Jesus Himself lived His earthly life: “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.” (John 14:10).
For me, learning to acknowledge this pattern—myself in “in Christ” and “Christ in me”—is itself a new spiritual discipline, and not one easily mastered. Yet, as I described in a previous blog article, “Union Life’s Incarnational Spirituality,” this isn’t only the real secret of Christian living but the ultimate purpose of the Incarnation. God’s Son became human to purchase and wed a human Bride. He was after an eternally intimate union with us, but this intimacy already began the moment we were “born again” into His Body, the Church.
Gal 2:20, we ought to acknowledge this spiritual reality practically, especially in our conscious prayer life. Therefore, we need to explore the direction of our straying minds, which are in union with “the mind of Christ,” (1 Cor 2:16). Straying thoughts that seem to interrupt our intercessions and supplications may actually be a divine source of refocusing our attention. God has certain concerns related specifically to our unique individuality. There isn’t an aspect of our lives in which He is not interested and involved.
We know that God uses lists. He listed many laws in the Old Testament for His people to follow. But when Jesus reduced the Old Testament Law into two commandments—loving God and loving our neighbor (Mat 22:37-40)—He was expressing the ever-expanding motive within His very nature. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are eternally a Triune Family of Love (1 John 4:8). That divine love cannot be packaged in a list of rules, nor can its reach be limited to our usually useful prayer lists.
Speaking of deeper issues... how do we handle thoughts easily recognized as personal temptations? We may be thinking of an injustice recently done to us, or of a sale we missed or the latest gadget we wish we owned, or of a nagging worry about a situation we have no control over. What if even darker possibilities enter our minds? What do we do?
I believe this is where the discipline of acknowledging our union with Christ’s mind is an essential practice in prayer. In the presence of especially troublesome thoughts, Jesus is still Lord. He knows exactly where these straying thoughts come from. He may be leading us to include their source in our hearts as a prayer target. He may want us to intercede in special ways for the individuals involved in or connected to these thoughts. After these seemingly distractive thoughts are thoroughly bathed in prayer, He may say, “Now, go back to your prayer list. I'm also interested in those things, even more than you are.”