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Aug 17 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 16, 2015 – Deuteronomy 6:4-13

Contemplative Prayer, Part Seven
Praying Non-stop

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of you house and on your gates.
Then it shall come about when the LORD your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build, and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you eat and are satisfied, then watch yourself, that you do not forget the LORD who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name.
 Deuteronomy 6:4-13

Intro: Do you see what God is doing here?

People, as individuals and in society, need a stable center
– a center enables us to orient the diverse pieces of our lives in a cohesive whole
• in a narcissistic culture, each person things, “I am the center of my universe”
• you cannot construct a healthy society around a center like that
– God’s first gift to Israel, after their liberation from Egypt, was his law
• the goal was to use the law to implant himself in them as the stable center
◦ he was to be everything to them — all your heart, all your soul, all your might
◦ through daily practice of specific activities, they would write his words on their hearts (v. 6)
• two key concepts emerge and we need to see how they’re fused
◦ “love” – that to which person commits his or her whole life — evidenced in behavior
◦ “fear” – the natural human response to the sacred (deserves the commitment of one’s whole life)

The plan is easy enough to understand, but its achievement is near impossible
– it is a precarious process, to fix belief, love and commitment in human consciousness
• and to do this without the use of force or violence
• the risk: before these are firmly set, the person forgets to follow, or abandons the process
◦ Israel had to place reminders everywhere and observe them
◦ otherwise, God’s place at center would not hold
– Israel’s history was a record of the collapse of this program
• cf. Ps. 78 and 106 — “they forgot . . . did not remember . . . they forgot God their Savior”
• in forgetting who God was, they forgot who they were

We tend to think of memory as “information storage”
– in scripture, to remember is to bring into awareness
• God knew he would be remembered on special occasions — festivals, weddings, death, crises, etc.
• what he wanted was for Israel to live with a continual consciousness of him
◦ over and over again he reminded them, “I am with you”
– and this brings us to our a last look at contemplative prayer
• we want to take our experience in prayer everywhere and into everything we do
◦ to maintain a constant mindfulness of God’s presence
• before we explore this constant state of prayerful awareness, I need to tell you something
◦ I am not there – I wish this was my experience, because I could serve you better
◦ but let’s be content to begin where we are and go forward together

We hear this message from both Jesus and Paul

The purpose of Jesus’ parable about the woman who pestered the unjust judge was

to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart (Lk. 18:1)

– then, of course, Paul’s famous line in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, pray without ceasing
• he does not mean, “Be always thinking thoughts about God”
◦ or “Go around mumbling complaints and requests”
• elsewhere Paul says:

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance . . . . (Ep. 6:18)
Helmut Thielicke observed that this verse “does not have in view a timeless ‘always’ but rather we are called upon to pray in every changing present. In the present that is always new, and in the situation shaped by it, we must be open to the coming of God which he effects by the Spirit”

– think of prayer as having an open line to God
• that we never hang up or end the call
• our hearts maintain this prayerful state in the background of everything else

Following the living God into abundant life

If you have not read the Song of Songs, it is a romantic love poem – one line in it goes:

I was asleep but my heart was awake (Song 5:2)

– the mind and body slept, but her heart was ever wakeful to love
• for me, it is more often exactly the opposite — my heart sleeps through life’s best moments
– Jesus’ advice to his disciples was that they learned to live in readiness

Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. (Mt. 24:42-43)

• it is not that God sneaks into our lives–though it may feel like it
◦ it’s just that we don’t see him coming because we are not looking for him
• the awareness that is awakened and deepened in prayer can be carried into everything else

I think one reason we want long lives, is because we’re not really living, we’re just getting older
– we want to extend our time on earth because we are not making the most of it
• we eat without tasting, smell without savoring,  touch without feeling
• and Jesus indicated that it is possible to look without seeing and listen without hearing (Mk. 8:18)
– the difference between looking and seeing is determined by the level of our experience
• looking is neurological; it is the activity of brain cells and synapses
◦ my eyes look and my brain takes note
◦ but to see: my eyes look and my soul feels what I see
◦ the sight itself may be beautiful or horrific, but it’s in me
• it would help if we took moment to nurture the deeper level of our senses
◦ we would find ourselves living more fully — mindfully, purposefully and meaningfully

How can we practice maintaining a spirit of prayer?

God gave Israel practices to form a consciousness of him (De. 6:7-8)
– what is the significance of binding his words on their hand and wearing them before eyes?
• the hand symbolizes all that one does and the eyes, all that one sees
◦ all that we set our hands do is conditioned by God’s word
◦ his words become the lens through which we look at our world, shaping our perspective
so, first: we can also make use of daily reminders
• bring prayerful awareness to routine activities such as getting up, brushing our teeth, and so on.

Second: When possible, avoid multi-tasking
– instead, do one thing paying as much attention to your experience as possible
• ever notice when eating that your hand knows how to get a glass to your mouth?
◦ and your tongue, palate, and esophagus know how to swallow on their own
• sense your way through activities like this
◦ prayerfully acknowledging and giving thanks that we are wonderfully made

Third: Dedicate a chore as a prayer of intercession for someone
– before yard work or vacuuming the carpet, pray
• “Lord, I devote this time to those living in refugee camps in Thailand”
– dedicate the time you spend in public places, to being salt and light (Mt. 5:13-16)
• Lot, by his mere presence in Sodom, was its protection (Ge. 18:23-32; 19:22)

Fourth, Try to see other people as persons
– imagine the burdens they carry and look for the image of God in them

Fifth: Refer everything back to God (1 Th. 5:18–and feel this as you do it)

Sixth: Engage in “reflective conversations”
– in Lexio Divina we experience prayerful awareness as we go through scripture
• we pay attention to this shared awareness
• we discuss what comes to us and learn from others what we’ve missed

Seventh: Cultivate wonder, awe and reverence
– just think of the number of times the Scriptures refer to “the fear of the Lord”

Abbot John Chapman (Spiritual Letters), “It is extraordinary how often children are conscious . . . of losing themselves in the infinite. With some this is rare, but vivid. Others can induce it in a mild form by (for example) merely looking up at the sky.”

• the problem is, our adult hearts are covered with a rock-hard shell
◦ this may mean that you may have to

Break up your fallow ground,
For it is time to seek the LORD . . . (Ho. 10:12)

Eighth: Sing “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” 
– on Friday, my cousin, Chuck Fromm, reminded me of this way to fix our hearts on God

I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.
Let my meditation be pleasing to Him . . . (Ps. 104:33-34)

Conc: Like I said at the beginnin, I am not at the place of constant prayerful awareness

Sometimes it comes to me in flashes, but I have not been able to sustain it
– the next best thing to continuous awareness of God is returning to awareness of him
• I do this sometimes by verbalizing what I am doing–for example, “I am reading this book”
◦ then I verbalize it again, but add, “I am aware of myself as . . .”
◦ e.g., “I am aware of myself as I am reading this book”
• I can then go on with the activity without being distracted by awareness
◦ awareness of my activity in this present moment always brings me to awareness of God

So what will you do this week to remind yourself to return to prayerful awareness?
– how will you bring yourself back to a present-moment consciousness that
God holds you in his love,
your heart belongs to Jesus Christ
and the Spirit is with you?

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