Dr. Ricky Cotton has been leading our community in the disciplines of Centering Prayer for a number of years. He did me the honor of dropping by the house for a visit the other afternoon. During our conversation I referred to my battle to yield to God’s Will when what I really want is my will! (We were speaking particularly about my desires to be healed completely from the effects of the stroke.)
He told me something I didn’t know about Centering Prayer.
When the modern teachers, like Thomas Keating, were looking for ways to reintroduce the historic prayer practices of the early Church fathers, they wanted a new name for it. One they considered was “The Prayer of Consent.” This shows up in one set of directions for Centering Prayer when teaching about the use of a sacred word or expression as an anchor:
The sacred word is… the expression of our intention to consent.
The thinking is that in this prayer discipline we should be especially aware of wanting to wait for the Lord to speak, with the desire that we should quickly come into agreement and alignment with His Will. Jesus taught “Thy Will be done” is the first request we should offer up in prayer and it is a request without any if, ands or buts. It is a request that stands alone without limitation or modification by any other desires of our own.
That got me thinking about the meaning of consent. It seems to me this is a step higher than mere assent or agreement (even though these are words used in the dictionary definitions). Consent is more than onlooking with approval. It is more like co-signing. When we are talking about letting God’s Will be done, we are doing more than just getting out of the way. When we consent we are joining our voice so it becomes one with His. As His ambassadors, we are not introducing our own agenda at all. It is all His but we are making it ours too.
One reason God became angry at Israel after their deliverance from Egypt was because they were not listening. They were also doubting His goodness. “God sent us water but can He send bread?” God answered by sending both bread and death (Psalm 78:18-31).
What God was (and is still) looking for is our consent to His Will. He tells us He is a good father, doing only what is best for us. Do we believe that? Do we act like we believe that? Do we let go of our plans and let His take precedence, expecting that He will do a better job with our lives than we can or will on our own?
When Jesus says “Apart from me you can do nothing,” does he mean what he is saying? If we are given the chance to agree, to co-sign, to consent, do we? Will we? Jesus does not always seem optimistic (Luke 18:8).
I struggle to express this faith in my own circumstances. I believe God can heal me. I look for that.
But I also believe He does what is good and right. I hold this belief while remaining in a broken condition. It is a trust, a faith, in something that is still unseen by our eyes. But we see clues to back up that faith in His apparent plans for us.
I have been fed for over six months via a feeding tube to my stomach. God has given me Melanie to faithfully tend to this every two hours of the day while we are awake.
One of the problems we’ve had is the necessity of a stabilizing fastener for the tube to be taped or glued to my skin. This fastener quickly caused rashes and blisters on my belly. The device also would get loose when my body sweat from the Florida heat. It hurt to pull loose the remaining pieces that were still stuck to me. And whether the skin was ready or not, a new fastener needed to be put in place to keep the long tube from flapping around. Melanie was in anguish not knowing how to solve the problem. The tube was quite long and it was not wise to let it just dangle under my shirt.
The Lord’s solution seems to have waited for us (particularly me) to get the courage to cut the rubber feed tube shorter, short enough that it no longer needed the extra stabilizing anchor. It took me awhile to find the courage to agree to this one-way step. If we could not get the tube closed again once we cut it shorter, things would become dramatically and urgently more difficult, since my feeding schedule comes up every two hours. The risk of leakage was not acceptable.
But trusting the Lord, we did it. The skin damage from the stabilizing patches is recovering. The shorter feed tube also passes all the liquid nutrition much more quickly. I still need to be fed this way while I undergo therapy and exercises to regain a normal swallow by mouth. The Lord has provided, not a short cut, but at least a way forward.
He waited for our consent, for my consent. And He waits for it every day. I have to consider the matter every morning as I realize, “This is the day that the Lord has made.” I’m getting quite a collection if examples where He has demonstrated His attention, care and love to us. Now He sends another day. In many ways, it still contains things I am not happy about.
Am I going to rejoice and be glad in it — or not?