Eating What Jesus Ate/Pursuing Desert Rhythms

As I see it, there are three types of input we can receive from God:

  • Information – data we didn’t have before, i.e., Paul wrote Philippians
  • Insight – new understanding into how things work; i.e., Agabus didn’t want Paul to go to Rome, but God did, which shows that God’s people can sometimes be sincerely wrong
  • Kairos (the Greek word for a moment in time that changes everything after it) – an applied truth which greatly changes my life; i.e., I read Matthew 6:33 and realize that I have not been seeking the Kingdom first in my career goals

All of these are valid and necessary, but I tend to prefer kairos.  I think kairos is the greatest input we can receive from God, the highest and most meaningful interaction we can have with God.

I think I received such a kairos today.  I’m not sure; it was kind of on the border between kairos and insight.  But either way, it was meaningful.  I was sitting in the dentist chair as an assistant cleaned my teeth.  The assistant was wonderful and kind, but being in the dentist chair always triggers me (it’s the money, not the pain, that bothers me) and I was a little grumpy.  As the assistant flossed her way through my mouth, I wondered why I was being grumpy toward a woman who was doing nothing unkind to me, and I realized it was because I was tired.  I realized I was not treating this woman as Jesus was (and, beyond that, was not living the life Jesus lived or having the spirit Jesus had) because I was tired.

This was not a new realization.  I have understood that fatigue reduces my Christ-likeness ever since Bible college.  What was new was what I realized after.  It was this:

“You are tired because you don’t have the desert rhythms Jesus did.”

“Desert rhythms” is a term I’m borrowing from Pete Scazzero.  I’ve been learning from him ever since a fellow pastor suggested I read his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (which is not an eight-week discipleship course which we will be running in my congregation after the new year).

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: It's Impossible to Be Spiritually Mature, While Remaining Emotionally Immature  -     By: Peter Scazzero

In a recent podcast, Scazzero talked about “desert rhythms”, that is, going into the “desert” or other place of solitude to interact with God.  I think he was talking about the desert rhythms of Elijah in that podcast, using the famous “still, small voice” passage from 1 Kings 19.  But it is true that Jesus had desert rhythms as well.

Image result for jesus lonely places

It is true that Jesus not only had these desert rhythms but was strengthened by these desert rhythms.  I’m not sure this is directly stated in Scripture but it must be true; this, after all, is what desert rhythms do and what desert rhythms are for, so it must be why Jesus did it and what He got from it.  He had these desert rhythms to strengthen Himself, to rest and refresh and restore Himself, to spiritually feed Himself, to ready Himself to be Himself (the perfect representative of God and perfect practitioner of the Kingdom) in public, to keep Himself from being fatigued.

It stands to reason, then, that we not only need to do these things ourselves but to do them for the same purpose and to the same result.  A guy named “Chief Iron Bear” (Harold Collins) taught me this on an episode of Fox’s Guinness World Records Primetime.  Chief Iron Bear was a strongman participating in a keg toss competition.  During the show, he revealed his daily diet.  As he revealed the diet, he said, “If you want to be like Chief Iron Bear, you have to eat like Chief Iron Bear.”  (I couldn’t find that exact clip, but I know it came from the October 4, 2001 episode of the program, and I’ve put in a clip of Chief Iron Bear pulling a semi truck just for fun.)

Silly as I think strongman competitions are (and much as I truly don’t want to be like Chief Iron Bear or any other strongman; what they do is impressive, but they’ve got just too much bulk for me), I think Chief Iron Bear has a point.  Being like him was not an act of the will.  Being like him could not be an act of the will.  It instead had to be a matter of imitating his diet and training.

It is the same way when it comes to the Christ-like, Kingdom-like spirit.  I have wanted to have that spirit, to be that, for so long, but I’ve always tried to get/be it via a force of will, by just trying to get/be that.  I realize now it can’t work that way.  I realize now that if I want to be like Jesus (and I truly do; that has been my goal since I heard Larry Bryant sing “Sometimes I’m Samson” at a Youth for Christ rally in the mid-80s) then I have to eat like Jesus.  I have to imitate Jesus.  I have to do what Jesus did.

That includes having these desert rhythms, these times of silence, times of prayer that are more about being with God than asking God for things.  I will never get rid of the fatigue that keeps me from being like Jesus in any other way.  I can only get rid of that fatigue and thus only be the Christ-like person I want to be by resting myself/preparing myself in the desert rhythm way Jesus did.

My Daily Prayer

I have been on a quest to learn how to more accurately pray for about a year now.  I may have mentioned that here before.  One of the places my quest took me was a book by John Eldredge.

Moving Mountains    -     By: John Eldredge

In this book, I was introduced to Eldredge’s “daily prayer”, a prayer he constructed and prays everyday.  I’m not sure he gives the prayer in that book (he might; I’m just not sure that’s where I found it), but he does on his Ransomed Heart website.  He has both the text and audio version of the prayer there.  It is also on the Ransomed Heart app.  I found it in one of those places, and have added it to my repertoire, praying it not daily but at least four times a week.  I pray different things every day; sometimes I do this Daily Prayer, sometimes I do the Lord’s Prayer, sometimes I do the Celtic Daily Office.  So I don’t do this prayer every day, but I do it frequently.

And I have found it useful.  I won’t go into all the Daily Prayer does or all that prayer in general does; I’m not qualified to do that, in fact, because I don’t know all that.  But I know it is at the very least true that “prayer changes me”, as the Anthony Hopkins version of C.S. Lewis says in Shadowlands.

Repeating the truths of God drives those truths into my mind, giving me a type of spiritual “muscle memory”, making those truths a natural, instinctive part of how I interpret what I see and experience.  Eldredge’s Daily Prayer contains a lot of these truths, and, while I again don’t want to try to explain what he could explain better, I think it does so for this reason: changing me, developing my spiritual muscle memory.  The Daily Prayer has done that for me, anyway, whether it was designed to or not, and that is one reason I love it.

I think prayer does more than just change me, though.  I think prayer actually does change things.  I don’t know that prayer “changes God”, as Hopkins-Lewis said, but I think God does act on prayer (again, for reasons I don’t know and can’t explain).  For example, I have found that praying for consecration (which I’m not sure is in the Daily Prayer as much as it is in Moving Mountains) has somehow consecrated me; temptations began vanishing when I started praying that way.  And the Daily Prayer contains petition for lots of similar changes.

So I think there is a lot of value in the Daily Prayer, and I do love it just as it is.  However, I am an organizer by nature, and I began wondering if it couldn’t be organized a little better (better being subjective there; better in my eyes if no one else’s).  I also had some other ideas I wanted to add to the Daily Prayer, ideas I took from other sources.  I was a little reluctant to do tinker with the prayer in this way, but I contacted the Ransomed Heart team nonetheless, asking what they thought about the idea.  They said this was a great idea, telling me the prayer was never meant to be recited in unwavering verbatim but was meant to be a guide.  With their go ahead, I then refashioned the prayer some.  I kept a lot of what Eldredge originally had, including the bulk of the structure, his repeated references to giving God “spirit, soul, and body, heart, mind, and will”, and his phrase “I receive it with thanks” which I find so powerful.  But I imported some other phrases of my own design that I’ve been praying for a long time.  I also imported some requests that weren’t in the prayer or that weren’t in the prayer as much as I would have liked.  I added the Serenity Prayer in there, too, and the consecration idea from Moving Mountains, and just a little from St. Patrick’s Breastplate.

In the end, my Daily Prayer is no more perfect than Eldredge’s.  As much as I would love to have every phrase and idea I ever pray on paper (because I again am and organizer and a collector and a preserver), I just can’t.  There is too much that just spontaneously comes to me as I pray (a lot of it from my daily Scripture readings) and too much I will learn in the future.  I just can’t document every great prayer idea or phrase I have.  I think my version of the Daily Prayer is a good skeleton, though, a pretty decent guide to get me (and maybe you) started.  So it is with humility (and thanks to John!) that I offer it to you now:

My Daily Prayer

My God; Great Three-In-One; holy and victorious Trinity; Father, Son, & Spirit.

I come to You now to be with You and to be made one with You.  I come to be restored in You, renewed in You, refreshed in You, rejuvenated by You, and rejoined to You.  I come to Your throne with confidence to receive You, Your life, Your love, and all the grace and mercy I so desperately need this day.

I ask the Holy Spirit to lead this time of prayer.  I ask the Son to intercede in this time of prayer.  I ask the Father to hear this time of prayer.  I ask You to interact with me in this time as I interact with You.  I ask You to receive me as I receive You.  I ask You to draw near to me as I draw near to You.  In all that I now pray, I stand in total agreement with Your will, with Your Spirit, and with all those everywhere who are praying for me.

I love God; I trust God; I worship God.  I praise Him; I glorify and magnify Him; I honor and adore Him; I exalt and extol Him; I respect and revere Him; I lift His name high and proclaim Him to be the highest.  I declare that He is.  I declare that He is almighty.  I declare that He is all-knowing.  I declare that He is all good.  I declare that He is light; in Him there is no darkness.  I declare that He is life; existence comes from Him.  I give myself over to Him in my heart’s search for light, goodness, peace, and joy.  I give myself over to Him in my heart’s search for life, meaning, purpose, reason, strength, and support.  I give myself over to Him in my heart’s search for love, family, friendship, relationship, and belonging.  I renounce all other gods as false and worthless, and I give Him the place in my heart they once occupied.  I trust that He and He alone is the source and supply of all I need and want.  I admit that He is the Hero of the story that is being told, and I am a supporting character.  He is the Lord, and I am the servant.  He is the Shepherd, and I am the lamb.  He is the King, and I am the subject.  He is the superior, and I am the inferior.  He is the owner, and I am the owned.  In this spirit I pray.

Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me and choosing me before the beginning of time.  You are the Creator, the Sustainer, the Redeemer, and the true end of all things, including my life and all life.  I love You; I trust You; I worship You.  You have proved Your love for me by sending Jesus; forgiven my sins through Him, included me in Him, granted me His righteousness, made me complete in Him and alive with Him, raised me with Him, seated me with Him at Your right hand, established me in His authority.  You have anointed me with Your Spirit.  You have given me every spiritual blessing in Christ.  You have adopted me into Your family and blessed me with the full rights of a son: the robe, the sandals, and the ring.  I receive it all with thanks, and I give You total claim to my life – spirit, soul, and body, heart, mind, strength, and will.

Jesus, thank You for coming to reveal the Father to me and to ransom me with Your own life. You are my true brother, friend, teacher, and master.  You are the one through whom all things come from the Father.  I love You; I trust You; I worship You.  By You my every sin is atoned for; I am delivered from the kingdom of darkness and transferred to Your kingdom of light; my sin nature is removed; my heart is circumcised unto God; and every claim being made against me is cancelled and disarmed.  I take my place now in Your cross and death, dying with You to sin, putting off the old man and putting on You and Your righteousness.  I take my place in Your resurrection, through which You have conquered sin, death, judgment, and the evil one; I give you my life so You can live and reign through me.  I take my place in Your ascension, through which You have ascended to fill the whole universe and cast down the evil one.  I sincerely acknowledge and accept You as my authority, rule, and dominion, my everlasting victory against the evil one and his kingdom, and my ability to bring Your Kingdom at all times and in every way.  Apply to me all the work and triumph in Your appearing, death, resurrection, ascension, and rule.  I receive it with thanks and give it total claim to my life – spirit, soul, and body, heart, mind, strength and will.

Holy Spirit, thank You for sealing me for the day of redemption and showing me the Father’s truth.  I love You; I trust You; I worship You.  You have come through Pentecost; clothed me with power from on high; sealed me in Christ; become my union with the Father and the Son.  You are the Spirit of truth in me; the life of God in me; my counselor, comforter, strength, and guide.  Fill me afresh.  Keep me in step with You.  Restore my union with the Father and the Son.  Lead me into all truth.  Anoint me for all of my life and walk and calling.  Bring me deeper into Jesus today.  I receive You with thanks, and I give You total claim to my life – spirit, soul, and body, heart, mind, strength, and will.

I bring the blood of Jesus Christ once more over my life.  I bring the riches of Jesus Christ over my life.  I bring the authority, rule, dominion, and full work of Jesus Christ over my life.  I bring myself under His banner and bring His authority over my home, my household, and my work; over all my kingdom and domain.  I submit everything to him.  I open the door to Him.  I invite Him into every room.  I welcome Him into every corner of my life.  I give Him all keys; full access to me and mine.

I accept Your hope, love, faith, joy, goodness, truth, wisdom, power, and strength.  They have been offered, and I receive them with thanks.

I ask that You will equip me with everything good for doing your will.  I ask that I will be fruitful as I remain connected to the Vine and the Gardener.

I ask Your forgiveness for my every sin, and I ask Your strength to forgive every sin committed against me.  Search me, know me, and grant me the grace of Your healing and deliverance.  Bless me with a deep and true repentance.  May I be forgiven and forgiving.  May forgiveness be my spirit, my story, and my song.

I ask You to show me where You are working in my life and what You are doing in my life, that I might be able to cooperate even if I don’t understand.

I bring the full work of Christ between me and every person, and I ask that nothing but the love and Spirit of God be between me and every person.  I ask Christ to be in the heart of everyone who thinks of me, in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me, in every eye that sees me, and in every ear that hears me.  I ask that Christ be in my heart, mouth, eye, and ear as I think of, speak to, see, and hear others as well.  I ask that my interactions with others will be fueled and flavored with Jesus and only Jesus.

I put on the full armor of God: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the helmet of salvation; I take up the shield of faith and sword of the Spirit, and I choose to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty strength as I pray in the Spirit at all times with all kinds of prayers and requests.

I bring the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ and the full work of Christ against every evil power coming against me – against every foul spirit, power, and device.  I cut them off in the name of the Lord; I bind and banish them from me and from my kingdom now in the mighty name of Jesus Christ.  I thank Jesus for His angels and summon them in his name to destroy all that is raised against me, to establish his Kingdom over me, and to guard me and mine day and night.

I offer myself to You as a living sacrifice: spirit, soul, and body, heart, mind, strength, and will.  I ask You to accept and receive this offering of me.  I ask You to place me on Your altar.  I ask You to touch my lips with coal, to wash me, to cleanse me, to redeem me, to sanctify me, to consecrate me, to purify me unto Yourself.  I ask that all ignoble things be removed from me that I be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy and useful to the master, prepared to do every good work.

By the power of Jesus Christ and the truth He has revealed to me, I break all agreements with the evil one.  I reject the lies he has told me and which have bound me for so long, and I confess the truths of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, truths of light, life, and love.

I ask for the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  I ask that I may live one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.

I ask You to send forth Your Spirit to raise up intercessors for me, and I ask that these intercessors will contact me, letting me know of their love and prayers for me.

I now call forth the kingdom of God throughout my home, my household, my kingdom, and domain in the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I confess that His is the power, and the Kingdom, and the glory forever.

In Jesus’ name, amen.

Evensong

I just finished Tim Keller’s Prayer.  I bought the book several months ago, but just got to it in the first couple weeks of this year.  Knowing how my frugal mind words, I probably bought it after Keller tweeted that it was on sale for $1.99 or something like that (he frequently tweets deals like that, and I frequently act on them as I am cheap).

Image result for tim keller prayer

I didn’t buy the book just because it was cheap, though, nor did I buy it just because I am cheap.  I bought it because I wanted to learn to pray differently.  I say differently, not better.  I’m not sure words like better apply to prayer.  I think prayer is an honest interaction with a personal God, not a ritual which manipulates an impersonal force, so I’m not sure it is possible to do it better; I think an interaction with a gracious God like ours is an interaction; it can’t be described as better or worse, just like the time I spend with my wife or my daughter can’t be described as better or worse; it is time with them and thus always good.

But I thought I could do it differently.  I thought I could do it more honestly, could make these honest interactions more honest and more interaction-ish (?; sorry, that’s the best description I could come up with).  And I thought Keller could help me with that.

He certainly did.  He particularly helped me in the final chapter, “Practice: Daily Prayer”.  I this chapter, he gave a brief history of daily prayer as practiced by believers throughout the centuries.  He briefly mentioned that daily prayer and times of daily prayer are “biblical” (which is, of course, very important to a Bible-based guy like me).  He mentioned the “Daily Office” with its seven times of prayer.  He also mentioned that this office was “proven to be physically insupportable” (this, incidentally, is what I thought about the office when I first learned about it in college; how can people keep waking up in the middle of the night to pray?).  He discussed changes to the office after the Protestant Reformation, changes which reduced the times of prayer from seven to two (Morning Prayer or Matins and Evensong).  Keller then said that Protestants in modern times dropped down to one time of prayer they called “Quiet Time”.

These comments about Quiet Time were particularly enlightening to me because this is what I was taught in college and what I have been continuing to do ever since: have one time of prayer and reading called either “quiet time” or “devotions”.  I may pray and read at other times in the day, but that morning time is the only scheduled, directed time.   I was surprised to realize that I was not just following a pattern which had handed to me by my college professors but that I was following it uncritically and had been doing so for the better part of two decades (yes, I have made some significant changes over those decades, but I’ve still just been following this basic pattern).  I was surprised to realize this pattern was far weaker than patterns followed by centuries of Christians before me and did not have much to commend itself, either biblically or otherwise.  And I was surprised to realize that I was doing these devotions more as a duty than as a devotion; that is, I wasn’t really interacting with God because I wanted/needed to as much as I was going through the motions because I believed I had to in order to be a “good Christian”, because this is what my professors said I needed to do to be a “good Christian” (yet another phrase which does not apply to interactions/relationships with God).

This revelation led me to the big change I am going to be making to my way of praying.  I plan to add another time of prayer to my daily schedule, to have two times of prayer as the early Protestants did.  I will continue to do my morning prayers  pretty much as I have always done them: I will read a section of the Bible following my new reading plan, then I will pray through the Lord’s/Model Prayer of Matthew 6, personalizing it for whatever topic I happen to be praying about that day (myself, my family, my church, etc.).  I will also do what I call “my memory work”, reciting one of the epistles I have memorized.

In the evening, though, I will be doing a prayer more in line with the format Keller gives.  He suggests five parts to prayer: evocation (realizing we are coming into God’s presence), meditation (reading a passage of the Bible), word prayer (praying through the biblical text that was just read), free prayer (praying about anything else), and contemplation.  I will be using the Moravian watchword and doctrinal text as my Bible passage, thus keeping me in contact with the Moravian plan as I wanted to.  I’m going to call this second time of prayer “Evensong” in the Protestant tradition (a term I first heard from a girl I dated during Bible college and which was always attractive to me).  It won’t nearly be like the Evensong services of some churches.  If fact, it will actually be more like the Daily Office time called Compline as I will be doing it around 9:30 PM after my wife and daughter have gone to bed.  But I think it will be good.  In fact, it has been good the first couple times I have done it.

In addition, I will also adapt another practice Keller mentioned briefly.  At one point in this final chapter, he said, “Luther, as we have seen, believed prayer should be twice a day, while Calvin advised prayer to be brief and even more.”  I like the idea of more and brief prayers, little words to God offered throughout the day.  I have been doing this anyway, but it was encouraging to hear the word brief.  I was taught in college that prayers should be long.  Our professors were always concerned about the duration of prayer for some reason, telling us that if we were “good Christians” (yeah, that again) we would pray for an hour a day or more.  I like Calvin’s idea that duration is unimportant, that brevity is in fact more desirable.  Offering quick words to God as I go about my day (again, honest words, not rote ones) seems to me to be a genuine walk with Him, which is what I am looking for.

I think these challenges will help me have the honest interactions with God I am looking and longing for.  I think they will allow me to keep what is good about the “quiet time” I’ve been doing while simultaneously incorporating the numerous good things Keller talked about.  I’m very happy and thankful, then, that I read the book and gave it a chance to influence me.