Oh lead me
To the place where I can find you
Oh lead me
To the place where you’ll be
Lead me to the cross
Where we first met
Draw me to my knees
So we can talk
Let me feel your breath
Let me know you’re here with me
Martin Smith 1995
If Bill Johnson is to be believed, Jesus has lots to say (see The languages of the Spirit). I guess a lot of the time we miss what He is saying because we are not really listening. I know I am a terrible listener and can easily be like one of those people who are thinking of the next thing they want to say, all too ready to interrupt! A good listener is willing to be patient, to put themselves in the other person’s place, to empathise and feel their way. I suppose it has a lot in common with worship: to make the other more important, appreciate and respect them, put them first, wait on them. Today I have been thinking about how quiet and patient we need to be to hear the still, small voice. We need to make ourselves still and small. Perhaps that is why I often hear that gentle whisper when I am just waking up, first thing in the morning, while all is dark and quiet. ‘Morning by morning You awaken my ear to listen like one being taught’ Isaiah 50v4
The world is full of noise and busyness: it is hard to find space and quiet. When we do find it we usually want to fill it with noise, music, entertainment, something diverting, exciting. It is hard to be still and know God, to be with ourselves and with Him. Richard Rohr says we should be like a child sitting happily at rest on her Mother’s lap. He also suggests we should imagine ourselves on a river bank watching the boats that represent all the responsibilities, concerns, relationships of our lives go past and float downstream. We have to practice sitting still, letting go, rather than wanting to jump aboard… As I do this I like to think that Jesus is sitting on the bank next to me and I can choose to lean into Him – just be quiet there with Him – trust that He knows and oversees it all and is in control.
All this is wordless. Learning how to pray silently, or even without forming requests or sentences at all, just feeling and sighing, has been a journey for me over the past months. When you run out of words, don’t know what to say, only have tears … its OK. ‘The Spirit prays for us with groans that words cannot express, and He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because He prays for us according to the will of God’ Romans 8v26-27. I wonder sometimes if those kind of prayers are more in line with God’s heart than all our words!
Jesus’ pattern was to go off by Himself to a quiet place, before it was light, before the demands of the day, before the crowds came, to pray to His Father. It was intentional, a setting aside of time and space: sleep had to take second place to seeking God. In the same way He was led into the wilderness by the Spirit for time alone at the start of His ministry – a time to be tempted, when He had some issues to bottom out. Fasting was part of that time – perhaps because there was nothing to eat there! Perhaps it hadn’t been planned, but just happened that way: days turned into weeks and the Spirit continued to lead Him further in. Food had to take second place to seeking God; company and activity had to take second place to seeking God: “Be still and know that I AM God” Psalm 46v10.
In the same way, Moses was called up onto Mount Sinai: ‘Come up on the mountain and stay here’. The cloud of glory came down and he simply waited there for 6 days. On the 7th day he was called into the cloud/consuming fire and ended up staying inside it for 40 days and nights – without food (Exodus 24v12-18). Elijah also went on a 40 day journey to the mountain of God; in his case angels fed him before he set off so that he would have the strength to get there! Fasting is about forgoing the routine of life and our natural dependancies in our over-riding desire for Him, His word, His provision: ‘He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord’ Deuteronomy 8v3.
After his triumph on Carmel, Elijah was running scared, hiding, afraid for his life, full of defensiveness and self-pity, even wishing he was dead. Having demonstrated His power in front of Israel, God now came to meet Elijah not in loudness or a demonstration of strength, but in gentleness and intimacy:
“The Lord said, Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord. And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire [a sound of gentle stillness and] a still, small voice. When Elijah heard the voice, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, What are you doing here, Elijah?” 1 Kings 19v11-13 AMP
The wind, earthquake and fire went before Him and made way for the presence of the Lord (Psalm 97v3-5) but when He came to His downtrodden servant it was in peace, to re-commission him and restore his purpose. He proved Himself mighty and awesome in front of the prophets of Baal, but with Elijah he showed his gentleness and kindness – which was just what he needed. It reminds me of Psalm 103v7: ‘He made known his ways to Moses, His acts to the people of Israel’ – it was his friend Moses who got the inside track on His motivation, while the masses just saw the outward manifestation.
But for both of them it took a journey, it took sacrifice and it took time. Its all about relationship and knowing the Lord: He wants to know we really want Him before He will reveal His secrets. David knew this too: ‘The Lord confides in those who fear Him; He makes His covenant known to them‘ Psalm 25v14. God not only wants to know that we trust Him, He wants to know that He can trust us.
Yes, He promises that ‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart’ Jeremiah 29v13, but as my friend and mentor used to say, this could equally be taken as a warning, that if we don’t seek Him with all our heart, we just may not find Him…