Finding God Within
The Kingdom of God is within us all. The journey to the heart where God dwells has no shortcuts, and either we begin the journey or remain seated in ignorance. Without some spiritual direction from someone who has traversed the distance to get there, we will inevitably find the journey more problematic. St.Anthony the Great, the saint who began monasticism was one of those people who took the long way around. He went into the cave in the desert all by himself with no spiritual guide. His teachings are all from direct experience both trial and error.
The great thing about a spiritual master is that he is not someone made Holy from birth. The reason why he is able to teach us about the traps laid out for us by the evil one, is because he himself fell into them, and took steps to overcome them.
I’m not a spiritual master at all, but I’d like to at least talk about one problem many of us have on the journey. There are of course many problems we encounter, that we couldn’t possibly cram into a 1000 page book never mind a blog post, so I like to take it one page at a time. Reading these posts and discussing these subjects, if it gives one reader a desire to pack his bags, and leave for the Kingdom within, then I think a lot of progress has been made.
Relationship With God Vs Experience
If someone approached you, looking to strike up a relationship, and you knowingly see the only reason for it is to gain something in return, would you call that friendship genuine? No. The worrying part is that, we do this with lots of people in our lives, and are not conscious of it. It’s obvious to us that we want the human approval of a person to get promoted in the work place.
The more hidden one, is that we befriend a person, not for their sake, but simply because their bubbly personality makes us happy. Their presence uplifts us. We never see the actual person for who they are, but simply for what it is we can get from them emotionally. That’s the more hidden one, and for that reason all the more dangerous. It lies hidden and untreated, like a festering wound.
Well, the same can happen in our relationship with God. More often than we like to admit, we approach the Lord because we are looking for something in return, and not simply for the sake of seeking the Lord. When God gives us the grace to feel and comprehend his presence it brings us great peace.
He does this to bring us closer to Him, and not the grace. But guess what happens? We end up chasing God only to regain the experience or the grace. We chase after the experience like a dog with a cat. If at any point God doesn’t give it to us, we become upset with God, and frustration and loss of peace is the result. We fall in love not with God, but with the grace. Can such a person really said to be looking for God?
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t pray for this or that. We petition God for many things, but if we are to increase the probability of such prayers being answered, we need to first assess why it is we approach God in the first place. The reason why so many prayers go unanswered is because we are praying the wrong way, either in words or intentions. Our approach to God simply stinks of self interest. Our prayers have a greater chance of reaching God, when we eliminate self interest, which is a false idol we bow down to. When our petitions are close to the Heart and Will of God, and not our own, then prayers are more likely to get answered.
Here is a prayer I’m going to make up on the spot. I would like to think it’s a prayer pleasing to God. Then I will use a bad example of a prayer that stinks of self interest.
Dear Lord, Please convert John, and make him a good Christian. I do not ask this that I may get the satisfaction of seeing him converted. I ask only to see another soul saved, and more importantly you glorified. That’s considered a good prayer (I think).
Here it is again, only this time it stinks of that self interest I spoke of earlier.
Dear Lord, Please convert John, and make him a good Christian. I know that if he converts, not only will you be glorified, but we will have a better relationship, and there’s a good chance he will include me in his will when he dies.
Here is one more: Mary said a prayer last night that all the bombs would fall on the other side of town instead of her house. Yikes. How not to pray indeed.
If we desire experience or a relationship with God that includes self interest, why should we be surprised if our prayers sink like a pebble to the bottom of the bottomless pit where they belong? Would you find someone like this acceptable and hang out with them in your day to day life? No! Then why expect God to do the same?
Be seekers of God, not of Graces, and then you will find that without asking for them, the graces just come.