Go mbeannai Dia duit.

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Quaker by conviction, mother by default, Celticst through love, Christ follower because I once was lost but now am found...

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Prayer of Tears.

They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. ~ Psalm 126:5

I said we were weird.  I said we seemed to constantly land slightly left of centre, so much so the only people I actually know who have experienced the Prayer of Tears live in my computer.

The first time I came across this expression was from Richard Foster, who is one of my all time favourite Christian writers.  He speaks to my condition, pulling his understanding of who God is from many different Christian traditions though he himself is a Quaker.  I understand this.  There is a flow to his understanding of how the Spirit operates that my spirit testifies to.  God is not limited by man~made traditions.  He is not locked into our doctrine, which is only our poor understanding of what we think God is saying to us.  There is a bigness to his understanding of God.  I'd been impressed ever since I came across his Celebration of Discipline more than 30 years ago & saw how the Quaker view of simplicity was a holisitc thing, begining with the self & spreading out in ever widening ripples to eventually include the whole earth.  It still makes complete sense to me.

So when I found his Prayer, Finding The Heart's True Home, I coveted it immediately, so much so that despite the price, which was far more than I could honestly afford, I simply couldn't walk out of the shop without it.  I'm so glad I didn't.  I have refered to this book again & again.  Dino has read it & when I went hunting it to refresh my memory before posting I found Dino had lent it to friends. 

I have lots of books on prayer ~ most of which have sat unread on my shelves, including a number of *classics*.  They made no sense to me.  My prayer life was not reflected within those austere pages.

 Towards the end of this brilliant book which lists over 2 dozen different sorts of prayer, Foster talks about the Prayer of Tears.  I was riveted.  Tears have always been a part of my Christian experience.  Even as a child, even before I would have called myself a Christian of any hue, God & tears went together in my experience.

In some ways it is easier to define this by what it is not.  It is not crying.  It may be anguished sobbing but not usually.  It is more a slow leaking of water from the tear ducts & one has absolutely no control over it.  Indeed, at times, it has been so much a part of prayer I was avoiding prayer because as soon as I shut my eyes the Spirit descended & this slow leaking of water began!   Praise, which is a type of prayer, is likely to bring it on.  Highly inconvienient!  There one is happily warbling out the hymn & a single word, a line, brings Christ sharply into focus & off I go like a waterlogged cat!

It is not selfhish tears ~ & I have wept enough of those to know the difference!  It is not the sort of crying one does before the Lord when times are tough & you want relief, or you've done something stupid & have to tell, or even when you are begging for the salvation of a loved one.  Nope.  The tears of which I speak are generated by a movement of the Holy Spirit.  One can be chipper as as one goes into prayer & within moments the tears are falling.  Stop praying & the tears immediately disappear.

So I will just mention a few of the areas where the prayer of tears seems to really like operating ~ at least as I have experienced this.

. Adoration.  Seriously, the Holy Spirit really gets up a head of steam when we enter fully into praise & worship of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I have had to stand there, completely unable to sing, the tears rolling uncontrollably down my cheeks while the Spirit highlights all that Christ has done for me.

. Breaking.  There seems to be a movement of the Spirit when He is doing a work in us that will bring us to tears.  I do not mean weeping as you may have experienced when true repentance comes upon you.  I do not mean crying per se.  It is more a sensitivity to the Spirit where even the lightest touch of Christ brings us to our kness in love & adoration ~ & with that comes the tears.

. Healing ~ especially emotional healing.

. Intercession.  I am not an intercessor but there have been times when I have been very aware of the Spirit grieving over mankind, over the state the world is in & there is a peculiar sense of sharing the burden which comes with tears. It is as though God was showing me His heart.  Just a tad overwhelming.

There is a good deal more to prayer than I think we will ever understand on this side of glory.  It is a peculiar kind of conversation but at it's heart lies a mystery.  The prayer of tears is more mysterious than most.  So often I have no idea why, let alone what God is trying to convey to me.  Sometimes He gives me a sense; sometimes not.  It doesn't matter.  What matters is the response to the touch of God.  God is talking.  The God of the universe.  The one who made the sun & the moon & the stars.  Is that amazing or what?!


Gerry Snape said...

love the writings of Richard Foster...I've spent a week crying....a new upgraded computer from my lovely man....but oh dear what a time working it all out. Maybe that's not what he meant but it certainly brought me to my knees and a lot of hiding away in the summer house praying!!!

Julie B. said...

I loved both books by Foster that you spoke of, Ganeida. But it's been so long I have forgotten many of the details, so maybe it's time to read them again. I'm not sure if what I'm experiencing is what you've described, but when I pray, often it's so painful to pray I cut it short. I know this is not the way to go deeper in one's prayer life, but sometimes to pray is so overwhelming, and I have backed off. A different kind of tears happens to me almost every time I open my Bible. I can read, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth...." and here come the tears. I can read "a dog returns to its vomit..." and here come the tears. Well that last one might be exaggerating, but it's almost like that. I don't always know why this is, either, but I've had a sense for many years (ever since I started attending Community Bible Study I think) that God's Word is truly powerful and active and alive, just as He says it is. It cuts through my hard heart like nothing else. It's why I need to open it frequently. When I don't, the calluses on my heart build up and I notice the difference in my life - my thoughts, my words, everything. Too bad we can't sit and chat over this. :) Thank you for sharing, dear Ganeida... xxoo

Ganeida said...

Oh Gerry! I'd weep too. The older I get the harder it is to master the new technology.

Julie: Yep. Sounds about right to me. I know exactly what you mean about backing of from prayer because it becomes so painfull but it is so overwhelming. I just wish I wasn't so thick & understood better.

Joyfulmum said...

Thanks for posting this! I've never read anything by Foster but now you've mentioned him I'll need to look out won't I ;)
The last one you mentioned about intercession is the one I experience the most, surprise surprise lol!
I can relate to what your other commenter Julie said too about the word, it truly is alive and so powerful! I don't know that we fully understand the power that is in God's word. It is so much more than a book, so much more than writing on paper (or writing on a digital device lol)!

seekingmyLord said...

I am in a spiritual fast and broken to the point I know longer know for what to pray, when I have surrendered to the Spirit, when I am down to the wordless prayer, just *being* with my Lord...there is weeping.

I have been realizing more and more of late that the things I find "normal" in my Christian experience are not so for other believers.

Desert Pilgrim said...

Thank you so much for this post, it speaks to that place where we are hidden in Him. It was very timely for me to come across this today.
All Blessings.