Praying Devotedly

By Stanley Scism

TEXT: Psalm 8
God is great and has done great and good things for us. Let’s respond to God’s greatness and goodness because God is great and good. We live in interesting times and we’re also very busy. This combination can lead to us being so busy that we pray only when bad things happen but consider: If we won’t pray EXCEPT when bad things happen, then God has to bring bad things into our lives to remind us to pray. Is that what we want? No. Life has enough ‘interesting’ times without encouraging God to provide more in our lives, so let’s respond now to God’s goodness.

In other interesting times lived a lady amid great social unrest and fear of plague, even as people in other eras have feared leprosy, cancer, and AIDS. She lived as a Benedictine nun in Norwich, besides the St. Julian Church, from which she took her name, Julian. Little is known of her life, although an older contemporary, Margery Kemp, mentions her.

Julian wanted:
– A deep recollection of His passion                                                                                                                                                   –  A bodily sickness
– To have, of God’s gift, three wounds.

She already felt some for the Passion, but wanted to feel as if she’d been present at the cross with Him when He suffered so she could suffer with Him as they did who loved Him.

She wanted by God’s will to be ill so severely she and others would think she’d die, to experience every pain natural and spiritual she’d have if she died, every fear and temptation, so God’s mercy could purge her and she could live afterward for His glory.

Knowing these were unusual prayers, she asked, “Lord, You know what I want. If it’s your will, let me have it; if it’s not your will… I want only what you want.”

She wanted wounds of true contrition, loving compassion, and longing with her will for God, and asked this last request without any condition, and continually.

Later, she became very ill at age 30 and in pain felt this was God’s time to give her this vision of Christ’s passion. While praying, she heard the words, ‘I am the foundation of your praying.’

She was bedridden three days and nights. On the third night, witnesses thought she’d die before morning. She lay in bed two more days. On the sixth night, she thought she’d die, but didn’t want to,  not due to earthly ties or fear of death; she trusted God’s mercy,  but due to wanting to love God better and longer and know Him better. She knew she’d lived a short time in heavenly terms and asked, “God, can I no longer live for your glory?” She wanted to be wholly His.

On the seventh day, 1373 May 13, her body felt dead within, her eyes fixed upwards, she couldn’t speak, then felt her body begin to rise. Her sight failed; the room grew dark. Her eyes focused on the cross held over her face and all around seemed terrifying demons. As the upper part of her body began to die, she felt nothing but short breath. Suddenly all pain was gone and she felt as well as ever, strange because she expected to be delivered from this world and with God. Since she was going to stay, she now wanted her first request to know His passion, that His passion would give her compassion.

“At that moment, I saw blood running down from under the crown, hot and flowing freely, just as it must have been beneath the crown of thorns pressed on His head. I knew then that Jesus, both as God and as man, had suffered for me. I saw it, and was amazed that a powerful and revered God would be so close to a sinner like me.” She said this vision means “Jesus Christ bled for us because He loves us closely. To us, He’s all good, comfort and help. He wraps us, embraces, shelters, surrounds us in tender love. God’s love never fails.”

She had another vision: something small as a hazelnut in a person’s palm. She thought it would vanish into nothing, yet “it lasts and always will because God loves it”  everything exists due to God’s love. God made, loves and preserves everything. When we unite with Him, He preserves and empowers us with peace and joy – so close that no created thing comes between us and Him. He wants all people to come openly to Him. God, give me you – You’re quite enough for me.

God’s goodness endears us to Him and we reach to touch His will since His goodness fills us and everything and He blesses Creation. He’s eternal and helps us to be forever with Him, restored by His Passion and preserved by love – all because He’s so good!

Let’s adhere and cling to, believe and trust in, God’s goodness. Julian described her visions in a book called Revelations of Divine Love. She says she can’t write but writes with life. She knew her Bible well. Her book has two versions – the first much better because it simply describes her experiences. The second, and last, edition, written many years later, adds interpretations influenced by extra-Biblical, Roman Catholic teachings, in which, too, she was well-versed.

Despite this, both of her editions have moments of great insight. She noticed, “In our ignorance of love, we… use intermediaries in our prayers. …more honor to God and more true delight if we faithfully pray to Him for His goodness than if we employ all the intermediaries in the world. Why? Because His goodness is full and complete, and in it, there is nothing lacking.” Here she spoke more than she’d known or even later knew in her second version when distance clouded her view and interpretation of her vision held sway more than the vision itself. No need to pray to saints, who then intercede to Mary’s tender heart, who then speaks on our behalf to her Son, and then he to his Father. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden,” and Paul says “One God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.”

In her visions’ fresh aftermath, she emphasizes God’s goodness and love, and the joy God gives us. She died in 1413, but we can still gain insights from her teaching: she wanted to know Jesus as Paul had also said he wanted to know Jesus: “I want to know Him in the power of His resurrection and in the fellowship of His suffering, becoming like Him in His death and so somehow to attain the resurrection from the dead.” Let’s know God’s passion, death and resurrection, praying for the strength that comes from God’s goodness that sent Him to the cross, and to endure it. He is everything’s goodness and His goodness meets our every need, gives us life and makes us grow. It’s near and swift – the same grace our souls always seek.

“Just as our flesh is covered by clothing, and our blood is covered by our flesh, so are we, soul and body, covered and enclosed by God’s goodness. Though the clothing and flesh deteriorate, God’s goodness grows and grows closer to us than our own bodies. So let’s cling to God’s goodness, blessing Him and benefitting us.

We can’t imagine how sweetly and tenderly, how much God loves us. Only by His grace can we keep contemplating “with endless wonder… His high, surpassing, immeasurable love.” We can have all of Him we want – He wants all of us. When we give ourselves to Him as He gave himself for us, we decrease in our own sight and increase instead with love for God and for our fellow Christians.

Do you yearn for spiritual experiences in God? Early Church members shared their revelations with other church members when congregations meet (1 Corinthians 14.26). Have you experienced these, or have you hesitated to ask God for them, wondering about God’s will?

Has illness ever made you get serious about God (like ministers on a plane about to go down, walking around the airplane and asking each other for forgiveness)? Have calamity or catastrophe adjusted your priorities? Will praying in mind of God’s goodness change your prayers?

Julian at a young age wanted three things from God. What would be your list? Why not pray for them? Won’t that be more likely to yield results than just wishing?

She focused on the Passion. Why don’t you pray about a different part of it each day this week?

God creates, loves and perseveres. Take a nature walk and marvel at creation, how God was pleased to make each tree, each blade of grass, and how God in grace preserves creation.

Think of God’s goodness every chance you get. Tell people about it. Think everywhere you go about how good God is.

From, “Apostolic Writers’ Digest”/Page 7/June 2008 by Stanley Scism