Today’s reading from the Old Testament in the Book of Common Prayer is Job 23:1-12 (it was when this was originally posted). In this passage, which you can find here, Job is replying to a friend’s argument about why he is going through some rough times. In this he talks about how he can no longer find God. He would like to find God, so he might talk to him and plead his case. But as he says, “If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him; on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him.” If you are anything like me, you can relate to Job’s lamentations here.
For a long time in my Christian life, I felt like Job. I was looking for God and I could not find him. Sometimes I felt like God and I were in a car chase scene from pretty much any action movie. God was in the get-away car and I was the police or whoever chasing after him. There might be sometimes when I was right behind/beside him. But then something would happen and he would gain a huge lead. Then after a while he totally alluded me and totally got away. But unlike the chaser, in the car chase scenes, I did not give up and go home; I continued to pursue God.
About a year and a half ago, my chasing paid off and I found God, in prayer unlike I had ever before. Just as Job experiences in the end of his lamenting, I got to have something like a face to face talk with God. It is not that I did not pray before this time or did not have the Holy Spirit. I believe I did, I just did not know how to listen to God or let the Holy Spirit work in and through me. I am not claiming to be an expert on prayer or even very good at it, but it is working better for me now. But there are times where I still feel like Job in the above verses. However, unlike Job it is usually because I get lazy not because God has hidden himself from me for a while to prove a point.
When things are going good and pretty easy, it is easy to kind of go on cruise control in our prayer life. It is a lot easier to just go through the actions or make it look like we are keeping up with God. But then one day something happens, it might be an illness, a change at work, a friendship changes, or something happens. When it does happen, you are shaken out of your cruise control to find that you have not kept up with God. If you are like me you frantically look around for God and like Job you can’t find him because you stopped looking for him and he seems hidden. But let me remind you, God is there and he is waiting for you and when you start looking unlike Job you will find him. It might take some work on your part and it might be hard to get back into a good prayer rhythm, but he is there to help you along the way. Hopefully you are also like Job and have a group of friends or a community around you that can help you (also hopefully your friends are better than Job’s and actually support you).
Monastic prayer is like this, when one monk falls down the others pick him up. Also even when a monk might not feel God’s presence in his life he still has to get up early in the morning and pray. After awhile of praying, even if you do not feel the Holy Spirit, at some point you will be praying and realize that the Holy Spirit is there and you can feel him. So even if you don’t always feel God, even in your pray life, keep praying, God is there and he is listening and ready to help.