Much of this nine-minute segment revolves around a powerful image drawn from one of CS Lewis’ poems about how the Lord takes and adapts our heart intentions rather than being limited by our literal words. Above all, it focuses on continuing to seek God through dry and arid times. The music begins, accordingly, on a sombre note in a piece that Corinne improvised for us back in 2011, and which we called ‘Suffering Prophet’.
The music then moves into Jane Horsfall’s beautiful piece, By the waters of Babylon.
And here is the transcript of the words.
What are you doing, Lord? A heart for seeking God
Part Two: Seeking at low tide
Seeking even when suffering
CS Lewis concluded that the prayers we pray during dry and arid times are of far greater worth in God’s sight than those that trip so naturally from our lips in times of special sweetness. Those spontaneous outpourings require virtually no effort, whereas to pray when it feels for all the world as though there is no benefit to be gained from doing so, is proof of serious seeking.
May we have the courage and fortitude to do the same when we are in a dry and weary land, where there appears to be no water, and where considerable effort is required in order to find it. (Psalm 63:1)
Yes, may such seeking become second nature to us – especially during times of spiritual aridity! After all, Jesus stressed how blessed He considers those who dare to believe without the encouragement and reassurance of constant signs and wonders, just as Paul makes it crystal clear that we are to live by faith and not by sight. (John 20:29, 2 Cor. 5:7, cf Rom. 11:33).
If our faith is being tested by feel more aware of the Lord’s apparent absence than of His presence, and may even be reeling that the next train actually departed half an hour ago, this is the very time to remember that He may be doing far more on the blind side than we realise at the time, and not to shrug our shoulders in defeat as the obstacles pile in.
Let’s think of these times for a moment ‘the other way round,’ from the outcome backwards, rather than from the challenges forward.’ Would the millions who have been encouraged by the words and examples of people such as Richard Wurmbrand, Joni Eareckson and Watchman Nee have been strengthened in the way that they were had the Lord intervened at an early stage of proceedings to supernaturally deliver those heroes of the faith from all their troubles? Surely not. It was their faithfulness during the trials that enabled the Lord to bring about all He did, (James 5:11) and which led to still greater heavenly anointing , rather as it is the extreme pressure placed on olives between the millstones releases the precious oil.
All the more important, then, for us to actively go to places that make it easy for us to seek Him. Many times in the last few weeks I have been feeling a long way below par, but have deliberately chosen to go to a place (either a corner of the house or to one of my favourite trysting places) in order to seek Him in this way. Very often, in consequence, His Spirit has stirred again within my heart within a relatively short time, and things have started working out in ways that in all probability would not have come about in such ways had I not been so intentional in my seeking. No matter that there may have been little or no initial joy or pleasure when I set out to do this, in unseen spiritual realms the Lord was both hearing and honouring this intention to baqash-seek!
Father give us more of this dogged determination to keep seeking You in all times and places, and to persevere in prayer for the joy that lies beyond and for the deliverance of those caught up in ways of thinking and living that You cannot own.
How much better is that than lamenting circumstances or by worrying lest we be seeking in the wrong way, or asking for the wrong sort of things? True we are wise to be aware, as James reminds us, that it is only too possible to focus on the wrong things in the wrong way the wrong time – to ask amiss as the old versions put it – either because we are too self-centred in our outlook, or because we have allowed some fundamentally wrong concepts about God to develop in our heart and that may be clouding or choking the clarity of our seeking.
That’s when we can end up “worshiping with frail images a folklore dream,” as CS Lewis so eloquently puts it in his poem ‘Footnote to all Prayers.’ In other words, we make what Lewis calls a ‘deaf idol’ out of our longings. He went on to warn that all of us can be self-deceived in our praying because we let certain longings in search unhelpful ways that unless the Lord “in magnetic mercy diverts our unskilfully aimed arrows to Himself,” we risk missing the mark altogether. Now there’s a thought that takes some unpacking; but what it boils down to is that if left unchecked unhelpful emphases can dominate our thinking and even affect our praying – but the Holy Spirit can redirect these unhelpful focuses and turn them into something that He can use.
For that reason, Lewis concludes his poem with the profound and delightful prayer entreaty that the Lord does not take all our prayers at their literal face value but rather that He ‘translates our limping metaphors’ into something that makes sense to Him, and which furthers His purposes.
I love that. The Lord can take our mixed and muddled thoughts and intentions and make them accord with his eternal flow. Along these lines, I have sometimes likened the process by which the Lord ‘redirects’ our less well-directed prayers to the way in which GPO telephone operators in bygone days used to connect people’s phone calls by manually branching plugs into the right socket. We can imagine an operator receiving an incoming call requesting a particular number, but then, realising that the person was actually asking for the wrong number, helpfully patching it through to the right person for them.
Just so long as deep down we really do want to do what the Lord wants, rather than insisting on our own way of seeing and doing things, the Lord can always find ways to answer our requests in the very best way.
Directory Enquiries locates God’s phone number for us: it is Jeremiah 33:3 which bids us to call on the Lord, promising that He will show us great and mighty things, things we either didn’t know or which were hidden until such time as He honours our seeking and reveals them to us.
Here’s another telephone number for those of us who deep down may feel uncertain whether the Lord will really welcome our persistent seeking of Him. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of Him.” (1 John 5:14-15) How reassuring is that?
So let’s take courage, seekers: the Lord does not limit these sure and certain promises to an exclusive few! His invitation is good news for rich and poor alike, and He honours it when we bring as much of ourselves as we can to as much of God as we understand – and trust Him to bridge the gap.
What though, is to be more comprehensive in the things we seek Him about. Rather as it can be an interesting exercise from time to time to check out the passages that we have not underlined in our Bibles, so it pays to try and recognise certain issues that we may not be actively seeking Him about. Why not ask Him to point out to us if there are certain regions, churches, institutions or people on whose behalf we are not in the habit of seeking God, but which we have seen, read, or heard about.
And here is the link to the first part, of which one person wrote, “I have listened to this first part several times. Tuning out the chatter of secular and theological voices all coming together and focusing on finding the Lord in the beauty of his holiness is such a blessing. There is definitely a shaking of structures going on.”