This morning at Church I heard a reading from 2 Peter 3:8-14. The last verse says:
Therefore, beloved, since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.
The last word, peace, echoed in my heart. I want to be at peace before the Father. That word, peace, immediately challenged me to surrender my worries, fears, and the things I'm trying to monitor and control in my life- my future, my career, and my vocation. To be at peace would mean to fully trust God's loving providence for all of my needs and desires. That being said, I am convicted that peace cannot be acquired simply by my efforts to be "peaceful", but is the fruit of trusting and dependening upon the Father. For me this means trusting that all of the unresolved things in my life will be provided for by Him.
This time of preparing for Christmas is a time of vulnerability. It is a season that declares that Christ's coming brings eternal hope for our lives. But to hope is to risk. To hope is to be vulnerable with our heart's desires and fears, and to to entrust these to the Father. Christmas doesn't simply celebrate the birth of the Jesus 2000 years ago, or the second coming which we look forward to. Christmas celebrates Christ's presence among us today. There is a special opportunity during this season to focus on our relationship with Christ and to grow deeper in our dependence on the Father.
To rely on the Father for fulfillment requires us being vulnerable with Him every day; to continually share with Him what our heart's are experiencing and to welcome His loving presence. This may sound simple or possibly elementary, but this is the path to a deep, mature, and authentic relationship with the Lord. Below is an approach to prayer that I've found helpful in teaching me how to pray vulnerably and authentically. It helps prevent prayer from being about God, but actually with God. The method below has the memorable acronym ARRR- think of a pirate and you won't forget it.
Start by picturing God as a loving Father who knows all of your needs before you come to prayer. Then move into the following steps.
ACKNOWLEDGE: Become aware of how you are doing. What are you experiencing emotionally, physically, and spiritually?
RELATE: Consciously relate this to the Father. Share with Him all of these things. You are giving Him permission to be part of this experience and welcoming His loving presence. This is simple, but is an act of profound trust.
RECEIVE: Now your turn is done, and all the pressure is on God. Now you get to let Him carry the weight of whatever your experiencing. Again, picture a loving Father before you and see what He has to say about your situation. You can imagine Him, or just sit in His loving presence.
RESPOND: After receiving the Father's love and grace make an appropriate response. Perhaps this is an act of surrender, trust, or gratitude, or possibly a practical resolution.
The more we depend on Him in our daily lives the more peaceful we will become. It doesn't remove the difficulties and suffering, but brings freedom in knowing that the Father is in control, and that He is present with us, always.
Jesus, we trust our lives to you today. We claim your loving providence for all of our needs and desires. We offer you our fears and concerns, and give you control of our lives. We hope in you, and ask you to make the bitter valley's of our heart places of peace and a wellspring of your love. Amen.