Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, February 14, 2021
G’ Morning Y’all,
I am pleased to be here this morning. Thank you for being here. My message this morning is “Getting to Know God”
My resources today are from a new book I found on prayer—called simply PRAYER, by Timothy Keller, published in 2014. After 911, Keller, a Presbyterian minister, and his wife were both suffering from serious illnesses, and on her suggestion, they decided to pray together. They already had individual prayer practices, but she challenged them to make this a habit together, to be closer to God. They have been praying nightly since that time in 2001, often on the phone when one or the other is away, but it is now a daily practice—not taking the place of other forms of prayer they are still engaged in.
My other sources are old stand byes: The Bible, and Thomas R. Kelly. I am using sections of his book Testament to Devotion, published in 1941, and excerpts from an article titled “Reality of the Spiritual World” from the Pendle Hill Reader. (This 184-page reader sold for $2.75 in 1942!) And finally, the small book published in 1982—at least my edition, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.
In his book called Prayer, Keller tells us something some of us have come to believe, others not so fully, as we are still testing, still learning:
God is the only person from whom you can hide nothing. Before Him, you will unavoidably come to see yourself in a new, unique light. Prayer, therefore, leads to a self-knowledge that is impossible to achieve any other way. Prayer is the only entryway into genuine self-knowledge. It is also the main way we experience deep change—the reordering of our loves—NOT our lives, but our loves. Prayer is how God gives us so many of the unimaginable thing he has for us. Indeed, prayer makes it safe for God to give us many of the things we most desire. It is the way we know God, the way we finally treat God as God. Prayer is simply the key to everything we need to do and be in life.
Paul also tells us the way we get to know God better. In writing to the people of Ephesus, he offers thanksgiving and prayers. Ephesians 1:16-17:
I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
Getting to know God and experiencing His love is what this special relationship is all about—Not just getting our desires met. And there are many benefits to this relationship according to Thomas Kelly:
Within (us) is a meeting place with God, who strengthens and invigorates our whole personality and makes us new creatures—then the tempests and inner strain of self-seeking, self-oriented living grow still. (Overriding our deep levels of selfishness is indeed a tough job!) Something of the cosmic patience of God Himself becomes ours, and we walk in quiet assurances and boldness for He is with us, His rod and His staff, they comfort us.
Kelly goes on to write that this practice is not unlike that of Brother Lawrence who lived in the 17th century—the same period as George Fox who discovered after long searching—this Inner Light. The Light we Quakers believe is in every person. Brother Lawrence found God when he was 18 years old, and began experimenting with prayer, continuous prayer over the years. When asked how he came upon this habit, he reported that he believed that God was at the beginning of each day, at the end and throughout the day, no matter what he was doing; thus, uttering prayers of thanks, reporting mistakes, just having a conversation just became a habit. He was convinced that God loved him, forgave him for his mistakes, and heard his confessions.
Finally, I want to share that Thomas Kelly thought that the practice of continuous prayer is difficult, but that we should be gentle with ourselves, beginning again and again, even after long periods of drought—not praying at all. Daily, hourly, at every opportunity—a running conversation that he believed happens on two levels; two levels that ultimately evolve into a mature, sound connection with God. I will quote from the Pendle Hill Reader from the article called the “Reality of the Spirituality World”, pp. 26-27.
This practice of continuous prayer in the presence of God involves developing the habit of carrying on mental life at two levels. At one level we are immersed in this world of time, of daily affairs. At the same time, but at a deeper level of our minds, we are in active relation with the eternal life. I do not think this is a psychologically impossibility or an abnormal thing. One sees a mild analogy in the very human experience of being in love. The newly accepted lover has an internal life of joy, of bounding heart, of outgoing aspiration toward his beloved. Yet he goes to work, earns a living, eats his meals, pays his bills. But all the time, deep within, there is a level of awareness of an object very dear to him. This awareness is private; he shows it to no one; yet it spills across and changes his outer life, colors his behavior, and gives new zest and glory to the daily round.
Oh yes, we know what a mooning calf he may be at first, what a lovable fool about outward affairs. But when the lover gets things in focus again, and the couple (my language) settle down to the long pull of the years, the deep love-relation underlies all the raveling frictions of home life and re-creates them in the light of deeper currents. The two levels are there, the surface and the deeper, in fruitful interplay, with the creative values coming from the deeper into the daily affairs of life.
Think about getting to know God through continuous prayer. Getting to know God and His love for us. Getting to know yourself in new ways, undergoing a deeper love of change with God—in ways that are unimaginable. Amen.