Many of the people of Hayes Barton will be familiar with the Jesus Prayer. Jesse Baker spoke and wrote about it while he was with us. The version usually encountered is: “Lord, Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” At the end of the prayer, a brief personal petition may be added for any special need or concern. The idea is to say the prayer repetitively as a focal prayer for meditation or as part of a spiritual practice discipline. I heard Madeleine L’Engle say that this prayer is a way for her to stay connected with God. Her statement really resonated with me, and I have used this prayer for many years to stay close to God.
Despite our efforts to stay connected with God, there are seasons in our lives when God seems more remote, less present, less accessible. I have experienced such a time in the last several years. For me, I don’t think this qualifies as a dark night of the soul like the great saints have reported. It is rather that there have been life distractions, more correctly described as challenges, that have narrowed my focus. One could say they led me into a spiritual myopia.
Many of us experience times like these. Some chal- lenges can be so great that one wonders if God is really there. We may also become angry with Him. These trials are deeply personal, and everyone must find his own way through them (hopefully with help from others).
Still, as Christians, we all have the promise and firm belief that God loves us and wants good things for us. So how can we find God when He may seem remote? I think the way is to open the channel from our end by reaching out to Him. The idea of stewardship gives us a good model for how to do this. When we talk about stewardship, we are talking about using our time, talent and treasure in the service of God. The Jesus Prayer that is so meaningful to me fits the model as a use of time to stay connected. Discovering out talents and committing to use them in Christian service can be hugely rewarding. And offering first fruits of our labor is a way of saying, “Thank you, Lord, for all of your many blessings.”