Dear friends in Christ,
Last week I attended the Meeting of Orders of Elders and Deacons and the Fellowship of Local Pastors. That’s just a fancy way of saying that all the preachers got together to talk too much, eat too much, and listen to the Bishop. We do this twice each year to help maintain our connection and to learn from gifted speakers who come in to present on topics of interest.
The speaker at this particular gathering was Tom Albin, a United Methodist Elder from Oklahoma who is appointed to serve as Dean of the Upper Room Ministries Chapel in Nashville. Tom’s topic for the day was prayer and he offered some wonderful suggestions on how we could enrich our prayer lives. Bishop Hayes also spoke to us in one of what will be many opportunities for him to “pass the mantle”, much as Elijah did to Elisha, before his retirement in September.
There was a point during the day when Tom’s message about prayer being less about us talking and more about listening to what God has to say, intersected with the Bishop’s plan to leave room for God to lead him into retirement and they both seemed to echo Paul’s words to the Galatians. “…when it pleased God…”
Today’s entry in My Utmost for His Highest” is titled: “Leave Room for God”. The fact that all of these things have come into alignment at the same time seems to be a testimony to the need for us to do just that – leave room for God to tell us what do and what to say. It is a daunting task, but I believe it is one worth pursuing. Oswald Chambers says this: “…we have to learn to make room for God – to give God ‘elbow room.’ We calculate and estimate, and say that this and that will happen, and we forget to make room for God to come in as He chooses.”
For example, we are in the habit of praying as if we knew what we were doing. We should remember that the only thing the Disciples asked Jesus to teach them was how to pray. “Lord, teach us to pray,” should still be on our lips. We should realize that our words are never adequate and that the Spirit will give us prayers when we are quiet and listen for them. We need to leave room in our prayers for God to speak to us so that we might turn God’s thoughts into our prayers.
As Bishop Hayes talked about getting ready for retirement he mentioned that many people have asked him what his plans are. After careful consideration he says that he is not making too many plans; he is leaving room in the margins for God to nudge him toward the things that God has planned for his retirement.
Oswald Chambers wants us to think about what might happen if we were to expect God to come in whatever way God choose to appear. If we are too calculating we may miss the element of surprise and miss the suddenness with which God may be pleased to get involved with us.
“Keep your life so constant with God,” Chambers says, “that His surprising power may break out on the right hand and on the left. Always be in a state of expectancy, and see that you leave room for God to come in as He likes.”
My friends, I must confess that I am too often guilty of over-planning for what I think is right, failing to leave room for God to enter into the conversation and steer things toward His design. I suspect that many of you encounter the same issue from time to time. This year let us all do better at listening for God to tell us what to do and what to say and when to do both.
Leaving room for God,