Pilgrimpace's Blog


standing unprotected

This is one of those passages that speaks to me deeply, that I want to spend a lot of time with.  The continuation of a journey into Lent.  

And the glimpses that this applies corporately as well as individually.

¡Ultreia!

“The essential act of prayer is to stand unprotected before God.  What will God do?  He will take possession of us.  That he should do this is the whole purpose of life.  We know we belong to God; we know too, if we are honest, that almost despite ourselves, we keep a deathly hold on our own autonomy.  We are willing, in fact very ready, to pay God lip-service (just as we are ready to talk about prayer rather than to pray), because waving God as a banner keeps our conscience quiet.  But really to belong to God is another matter.  It means having nothing left for ourselves, always bound to the will of another, no sense of interior success to comfort us, living in the painful acknowledgement of being ‘unprofitable servants’.  It is a terrible thing to be a fallen creature, and for most of the time we busily push this truth out of our awareness.  But prayer places us helpless before the living God and we taste the full bitterness of what we are.

“Ask yourself: What do I really want when I pray?  Do you want to be possessed by God? Or to put the same question more honestly, do you want to want it?  Then you have it.  The one point Jesus stressed and repeated and brought up again is that: ‘Whatever you ask the Father he will grant it to you.’  his insistence on faith and perseverance are surely other ways of saying the same thing: you must really want, it must engross you.  When you set yourself down to pray, what do you want?  If you want God to take possession of you, then you are praying.  That is all prayer is.  There are no secrets, no shortcuts, no methods.  Prayer is the utter ruthless test of your sincerity.  It is the one place in the world in which there is nowhere to hide.  That is its utter bliss – and its torment.

“If you desire to stand surrendered before God, then you are standing there.  It needs absolutely nothing else.  Prayer is the last thing we should feel discouraged about.  It concerns nobody except God – always longing to give himself in love – and my own decision.  And that too is God’s ‘who works in us to will and effect’.  In a very true sense there is nothing more to say about prayer – ‘the simplest thing out’.  However two practical comments.  The first is that prayer must have time … Nobody goes through a day without the odd patch, a five minute break, a ten minute pause.  If you do truly want to pray, well then pray … The other practical point is: what shall I do during prayer?  (How eagerly people long to be told the answer!  For that would make me safe against God, well protected.  I would know what to do!)  But the answer is of the usual appalling simplicity: stand before God unprotected and you will know yourself what to do.”

– Ruth Burrows Ascent to Love: the spiritual teaching of St John of the Cross

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2 Comments so far
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I really enjoyed reading this passage “standing unprotected.” Yesterday I preached on the Transfiguration. I said that when Moses’ face shone through being in God’s presence, the fear it evoked was dealt with by a veil, like a safety barrier between people and God. When Jesus shone out in his glory, the fear of the disciples was dealt with according to St Matthew by a touch and a word “Get up and don’t be afraid.” So not a barrier but an invitation to stand up and look God in the eye.
I asked the question, would we rather have a safety barrier or stand up in front of God? I’ll take that question for myself into Lent.

Comment by revdamanda

Thanks Amanda

Comment by pilgrimpace




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