Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Dark night of my soul

I am reading Philip Yancey's new book, Prayer, Does It Make Any Difference. I have learned that when I read a Philip Yancey book, I am nourished, I am enriched, I am blessed. Because I have been struggling with the duration of the wait as I pray for our prodigals, this book caught my eye as I walked through the book store yesterday afternoon.

Emily Dickinson has captured the very place I find myself:

There comes an hour when begging stops
When the long interceding lips
Perceive their prayer is in vain.

Now, it is not my intent to be blasphemous, in keeping with the desire to be completely honest, I am desperate for a break in the silence. Family and friends encourage, family and friends support me in prayer. Still, the years of struggle weaken my spirit. Has this happened to you?
In a chapter entitled, The Sound of Silence, Yancey suggests that we Touch the Void. While many people believe that if your faith is strong enough your prayer will be answered, I have discovered that even Jesus begged "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Furthermore, the Psalmist wrote:

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
But if I go to the east, he is not there;
if I go to the west, I do not find him.
When he is at work in the north, I do not see him;
when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.
O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, and am not silent.
...my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
"Where is your God?'
I spread out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.

I am not alone in my lamenting.

Yancey goes on to offer Survival Strategies for this unavoidable "season of dryness." Quoting Teresa of Avila, Yancey reminds me that "God is not really silent, we are deaf. My job is to remain vigilant like a sentry on duty, straining to hear the sounds of the night as well as the first signs of dawn." This is not a quick and simple answer to a long and difficult struggle. This is a process of growth. Yancey challenges me to ask the question, what is the purpose of my prayers? Do I desperately call out to God to hear my plea? Or do I pray to be in communion with Him?

Ouch! Communion? I am here to confess, my prayers are about gratitude, my prayers are about worship, my prayers are about petition; but communion? Regarding this kind of prayer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, "Seek God, not happiness--this is the fundamental rule of all meditation. If you seek God alone, you will happiness: that is its promise." Have I been chasing God, merely, for my own satisfaction? Or do I chase God to be in communion with Him? The difference in my answer leads me out of my season of dryness. The difference in my answer sheds light on the dark night of my soul.
"Touching the void"-- not abandoning the effort, rather, looking at the silence full face; with the Psalmist saying, "I spread out my hands to you!" Instead of hiding away from God, claiming disappointment in His silence, we may enter communion with Him, guaranteeing satisfaction! James 4:8 affirms, "Come near to God and he will come near to you!"

Philip Yancey asks, "Do you seek only answers or will you seek communion?" Perhaps, this is the same question that God is asking today!


Dawn said...

Does Rainy River dump into Rainy Lake? That's where I used to live - right close to Rainy Lake in Intl Falls. Looks like a beautiful spot!

Come over and read the words to the songs we sang Sunday. Blessings!

Dawn said...

Great thoughts about waiting! We went to a Teen Challenge banquet last night and received such a blessing to see the changed lives. And to be with our changed son at this function and see his joy. We met people whose son went for 10 days and left already. We had good conversation with them. I thought of Curt so much.

Chaotic Mom said...

Ouch! Consider my heart majorly pin-pricked this morning. I needed to read your post and will be thinking about it all day now... ;)

Mountain Mama said...

Yes I have reached that place more than once. But in praying for my prodigal I just kept trying. Eventually there wasn't a prayer left in me for his salvation, and I began to thank the Lord for his salvation instead.
Now I am praying both ways.
I agree that the Lord wants us to stay in communion with him, and only He knows all the different ways to accomplish this. He also knows the way to a mother's heart is through her children.

Heather Smith said...

I'm totally convicted. Too many times I use my prayer time as if God is Santa who I'm giving a list to. I need to remember that prayer time is my time to have communion with God.

Jen said...

phillip yancey is good isnt he

eph2810 said...

Double Ouch - that is what I have to say. Many times I have given up on a certain prayer, because I thought that God's answer would be 'no', because my seemed unanswered...I really have to take to heart what you have shared today - thank you.

Janice (5 Minutes for Mom) said...

What a wonderful post Diane!! I love Philip Yancey - he is such a wise and gifted writer. (My father was in ministry as well and friends with him, and so I was blessed to meet him.)
I really appreciated your thoughts here and I completely agree. We are so interested in ourselves in our prayers that we are really missing out on what prayer is supposed to be.

tam said...

i had this my comment all done yesterday and just as i hit publish blogger went down...ugh

I'll try to get it right:

I came across a book in my own home a few days ago and as I flipped through it and read a few passages I immediately thought of you...then I came here yesterday to share the book with you and your post was so poignant and addressed the very thing I was reading about...

A passage:

Somebody Prays

"Somebody prays for a boy astray
Afar from home at the close of day,
Somebody loves him in spite of his sin
Would give her all to bring him in;
That somebody is mother.

"Somebody's heart is filled with joy,
To meet a penitent erring boy,
To know her prayers were not in vain,
To welcome home her boy again
In spite of every sin and stain:
And that somebody is mother."

Author unknown

The book is titled simply "Mother" written by Jarrette Aycock. Published in 1945.

The story is over 60 years old but still so applicable. It was written by wayward boy who finally, after years of straying and his mother praying...returned and became and evangelist.

It is beautiful and bittersweet but encouraging too...

If you would like I'd be happy to send it to you.

C. H. Green said...

Thanks Diane, I really needed this.

skittykat said...

You really hit the nail on the head for me.

I am a rediscovering Chritian (left religion behind I didn't start my way back until the birth of my 2nd child..I was supose to not be able to have any and I got blessed with two) and I have questions and doubts sometimes.

I am going to have to check out Yanceys book.