Mission Devotional - August 26, 2016

Opening Prayer: Lord, I know not what I ought to ask of Thee; Thou only knowest what I need; Thou lovest me better than I know how to love myself. O Father! Give to Thy child that which he himself knows not how to ask. I dare not ask either for crosses or consolations; I simply present myself before Thee, I open my heart to Thee. Behold my needs which I know not myself; see and do according to Thy tender mercy. Smite, or heal; depress me, or raise me up; I adore all Thy purposes without knowing them; I am silent; I offer myself in sacrifice; I yield myself to Thee; I would have no other desire than to accomplish Thy will. Teach me to pray. Pray Thyself in me. - Francois Fenelon

Scripture: Matthew 6:5-8

Journal: What is your life of prayer like these days? What words best describe it? What do you most deeply long for your experience and practice of prayer to be like? How will you move in that direction? What does shutting the door look like for you right now?

Reflection: Now Christ, who seldom gave detailed instruction about anything, did give some detailed instruction for that withdrawal, that recollection which is the essential condition of real prayer, real communion with God.

"Thou when thou prayest, enter into thy closet - and shut the door." I think we can almost see the smile with which He said those three words: and those three words define what we have to try to do. Anyone can retire into a quiet place and have a thoroughly unquiet time in it - but that is not making a Retreat! It is the shutting the door which makes the whole difference between a true Retreat and a worried religious weekend.

Shut the door. It is an extraordinarily difficult thing to do. Nearly every one pulls it to and leaves it slightly ajar so that the whistling draught comes in from the outer world, with reminders of all the worries, interests, conflicts, joys and sorrows of daily life.

But Christ said Shut, and He meant Shut. A complete barrier deliberately set up, with you on one side alone with God and everything else without exception on the other side. The voice of God is very gentle; we cannot hear it if we let other voices compete. Our ordinary life, of course, is not lived like that and should not be; but this bit of life is to be lived like that. It is no use at all to enter that closet, that inner sanctuary, clutching the daily paper, the reports of all the societies you support, your engagement book and a large bundle of personal correspondence. All these must be left outside. The motto for your Retreat is God Only, God in Himself, sought for Himself alone.

The object of Retreat is not Intercession or self-exploration, but such communion with Him as shall afterwards make you more powerful in intercession; and such self-loss in Him as shall heal your wounds by new contact with His life and love.

You would hardly enter the presence of the human being you most deeply respected and loved in the state of fuss and preoccupation and distraction in which we too often approach God. You are to "centre down" as the Quakers say, into that deep stillness which is the proper atmosphere of your soul. Remain with God. Wait upon the Light. Speak to your heavenly Father who is in secret. These are the words that describe the attitude of the soul really in Retreat. Do not think now of the world's state and needs and sufferings or your problems and responsibilities; this is not the time for that. Do not think too much about your own sins. A general, humble, but very tranquil act of penitence and acknowledgement of your faithfulness is best. "Commune with your Father, which is in secret." There is always something dark, hidden, secret, about our real intercourse with God. In religion we should always distrust the obvious and the clear. The closet where we speak to Him is not very well lit—but the light that filters into it has a quality of its own; it is a ray of the Eternal Light on which we cannot easily look: but as we get more used to it, sun ourselves in its glow, we learn, as we can bear it, to see more and more. Therefore we must be content to dwell with God in that dim silence. Gaze at Him darkly, as the mystics say, offer yourselves again and again to Him. "All friends everywhere," said Fox, "keep all your meetings, waiting on the Light" - a perfect prescription for a good Retreat. (Fruits of the Spirit by Evelyn Underhill)

Prayer for the church, for others, for myself

After more than 20 years of church planting in Japan, God led Ron and Amy Barber to a new challenge of equipping the next generation of church planters. Their new ministry at IGSL in the Philippines prepares students for ministry in cross-cultural contexts around the world. Pray today for the Barbers as they continue to get settled in the Philippines. Pray also for Amy whose father died earlier this summer.

Knox County CAC is a public agency serving the citizens of Knoxville and Knox County. Cedar Springs is partnering with CAC Homeward Bound Emergency Transitional Housing Project (ETH). The program helps specific groups find housing: (1) Families with children that cannot find shelter space, (2) Seniors that cannot get into shelter or who are too frail for existing shelter, (3) Individuals with an already established housing plan. Pray today for the staff of CAC as they seek to find housing for these individuals.

Closing Prayer: Teach me to seek you, for I cannot seek you unless you teach me, or find you unless you show yourself to me. Let me seek you in my desire, and desire you in my seeking. Let me find you by loving you, let me love you when I find you. - St. Anselm