In his incomparable book entitled “Prayer”, Richard Foster, writing on meditation in prayer, told about one of his former students called Jim. Jim was a bright student working well in a professional Christian job, but struggling to maintain any quality in his spiritual life. So he went into a private retreat.
At the retreat house a monk, in Adidas jogging shoes, was appointed as his spiritual director.
Imagine – a jogging monk! Jim was not pleased. He was given one thing to do, to meditate on the Annunciation to Mary in Luke’s gospel, Chapter 1. He was disappointed. He’s already read it a thousand times. But for two hours he studied it, extracted a couple of sermon ideas, and then twiddled his thumbs, bored out of his wits. Next day Jim told the monk what he had seen in the passage. Now it was the monk who was unimpressed. “Is that all?”. “What was your aim as you read?” “To understand it I guess” was the reply. “Anything else?” “No, what else is there?”
Jim was assigned the same few verses again for a whole day, to read with his heart and not his head. By nightfall he knew it by heart, and it was lifeless. Next day was the same – except that the jogging monk said “You’re trying too hard Jim, you’re trying to control God. Just receive, open up and be still”.
By noon, Jim was going bananas. “I give up. I can’t” he shouted at the ceiling, and he began to weep. After a while he looked at the Bible again – the same verses – and somehow they were different.Mary’s words became his. “Let it be to me” echoed in his head.
God spoke to him – a window opened. God wanted to talk to Jim as a friend to a friend. Mary’s feelings became his. He went with God deep into his unresolved fears and doubts and feelings, and came to the words spoken to Mary, “You have found favour with God”. “How can this be?” she said. So did Jim, and wept. He had his future path opened to him that day, and his response was the words of Mary “Let it be to me according to your word”. He had lost control of his life and in that moment, found it. Here are some of the words from Luke Chapter 1 – turn them into a prayer today.
But the angel said to her “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. …
“How will this be” Mary asked the angel “since I am a virgin?”.
The angel answered “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
” May it be to me as you have said.” Luke 1: 30-31, 34-35, 38b
Now read and meditate on Nehemiah Chapter 8.