Wellspring of Life

Wellspring of Life

How do you so organise your life to make time and space available for God to ‘form’ you – heart and soul, mind and strength – as a follower of Jesus, a child of God? 

I am forever grateful for the wise mentors that guided and supported my first steps as a disciple of Jesus Christ. What I learnt from them is that discipleship practice is both very, very simple and very, very difficult. 
I was reminded of this by a throwaway comment made by Sister Julienne (Call the Midwife) who spoke of ‘the privilege and discipline of prayer’. Somehow I don’t think she was referring to the ‘shopping list’ prayers that are so common, but to that deep connection born of relationship with God that is always the wellspring of a devoted life. I’m aware that mountains of books have been and will continue to be, written about prayer.  
Many of them are handbooks for those beginning their discipleship walk but all the ‘how to’s’ and ‘what’s’ are much less important than the ‘who’ – the living God who yearns to be in relationship. 

Martin Luther is famously credited with saying that he spent two hours a day in prayer unless he was very busy. When he was busy, he prayed for three hours before beginning his work. In our own day, when ‘busyness’ is, for many of us, an expectation, almost a measure of our worth in the marketplace, it’s very difficult to contemplate setting aside any time, let alone two or three hours for prayer.  
Given that we’re all probably aware of the damage that unrelenting busyness has on all our relationships, it should come as no surprise that it has similar consequences for our relationship with God. Sometimes we can only learn this the hard way, once the wheels have really fallen off. After that, the discipline that Sister Julienne refers to can provide a very welcome support and it is as simple as turning up and being present to God, turning away from all other demands and distractions, and turning on our hearts and minds to hear what God is saying to us. ‘Just do it’ to quote a familiar slogan – it is as simple as that. 

Where it gets difficult is not just because prayer is a bit weird in a world obsessed with ‘productivity’ and ‘outcomes’, though that’s often true. What makes prayer really weird is that it simply reflects belief in a transcendent deity who seeks, yearns, to be in a loving relationship with ordinary, earthly humans. Though this belief was once widespread, ‘normal’, it is now unusual, weird in the eyes of the world. 

There’s no point pretending that the church and the life of disciples is not influenced by the prevailing or dominant culture that seeks to colonise our attention in its own interests. It’s particularly difficult when that culture is loudly proclaiming ‘you’re worth it’ and making human beings sufficient unto themselves and assuring them that the latest ‘bright shiny object’ will provide the satisfaction and fulfilment that they crave.

The plain fact is that if we forget or abandon the ‘the discipline and privilege of prayer’ as the foundation of our life with God, we are surely surrendering ourselves to be ‘formed’ by the values and beliefs of the culture. 

I confess that, like many others, I’ve learnt this painfully the hard way and while I always recognised the necessity of discipline it was fueled more by duty than desire. I certainly had no sense of the ‘privilege’ of prayer. Now I have some inkling of what Luther was getting at – in a world that will pull you every which way with busyness and noise, being able to draw strength, guidance, comfort and courage from the wellspring of life is simply … privilege. 


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