“The day when God is absent, when he is silent – that is the beginning of prayer.”
Metropolitan ANTHONY Bloom is quick to clarify (in fact we are still on page 1 of chapter 1 in his fantastic little book “Beginning to Pray“) that God is never really absent. “For He Himself said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5 quoting Joshua 1:5) But we may feel He is absent when we get no reply in prayer. Met. ANTHONY reminds us that prayer is an encounter, a deep relationship. In the perfect freedom of a healthy relationship there is nothing forced nor is there violence of any kind. Relationships are always mutual. God cannot be controlled. I have heard said, “No one knows what God is going to do. Even His own Son was crucified.” We are fools to reserve only a few minutes for God and wonder why we do not feel His presence. Met. ANTHONY posits that God spends the other 23½ hours of the day knocking on our hearts and minds. If we are willing to consider our interaction with God as an actual relationship maybe the Lord would title this chapter, “The Absence of Man!”
The 2nd thing we need to remember is that any meeting face to face with God is a moment of judgment. The Greek word for judgment is crisis. We should be grateful if we do not perceive God’s presence all the time. God is merciful to give us a chance to judge ourselves before we stand before Him.
“What we must start with, if we wish to pray, is the certainty that we are sinners in need of salvation, that we are cut off from God and that we cannot live without Him and that all we can offer God is our desperate longing to be made such that God will receive us, receive us in repentance, receive us with mercy and with love. And so from the outset prayer is our humble ascent towards God, a moment when we turn Godwards, shy of coming near, knowing that if we meet Him too soon, before His grace has had time to help us to be capable of meeting Him, it will be judgment. And all we can do is to turn to Him with all the reverence, all the veneration, the worshipful adoration, the fear of God of which we are capable, with all the attention and earnestness which we possess, and ask Him to do something with us that will make us capable of meeting Him face to face, not for judgment, nor for condemnation, but for eternal life.”
Chapter 1 ends with Met. ANTHONY describing our desire and attempt to go deeper into Christ like knocking on the door. (Remember that Jesus Himself said, “I am the door.”) But that is Chapter 2 and so we will save that for tomorrow’s blog.
Today’s readings in the Orthodox Church: Acts 21:8-14, John 14:27-15:7