I think I mentioned already that I'm in the middle of writing an essay on prayer for my Masters.
Which I quite frankly believe, there are not enough words in the world to complete effectively.
At the same time as re-tackling classic-prayer-books by folk like Richard Foster or Teresa of Avila, I'm also reading 'Abba's Child' by Brennan Manning and a pretty hardcore analysis of Japanese youth culture in my spare moments.
Where I am going with this? Well, basically, I'm being rocked from my complacency with a heart-cry of 'Oh Lord, teach me how to pray…'
And the uncomfortability of that is actually incredibly liberating.
Because I'm asking Jesus again, 'Teach me how to pray…' You know? And He answers that! My prayer-journey for the past too-many-to-count years has been one of early-morning-wake-ups and tithing-time-commitments and learning-wilderness-lessons. It involves stories of intimacy and revelation and breakthrough, amidst the reality of boredom and pride and distraction.
I'm a messy kind of prayer-paradox.
But I hit this season, with a heart cry to learn. To be taught. To grow. To love Him more.
My church is doing this thing just now where the building is open from 6am – 8am for people to go and pray. It's awesome! Like, just the heart to get people really praying is totally awesome and I totally love it.
So, I was in church this morning, in the stillness of it all, praying some verses from Hosea 2 and using them as a meditation. And I hit verse 15.
There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
Ok. This was a beautiful meditation this morning.
Hear me out…
That God's restoration would make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
If you read that in your Bible the word Achor has a little footnote next to it that says it means, 'trouble'. Which is really proved right if you remember the time *I think* we are first introduced to the Valley of Achor in the Bible.
Back in Joshua 7.
Remember that story?
Israel have just seen the walls of Jericho fall and are on this pretty big faith-high of God doing remarkable things and going before them into the promised land. And God had given them a really simple instruction: Don't take the treasure of Jericho. Don't covet what you see there. Be faithful to me.
So they come to the town of Ai. Which is tiny compared to Jericho. And they think this next bit will be pretty easy.
Until they are horribly beaten and quickly resort to their default (and our default) position of being absolutely terrified about absolutely everything and totally doubting God.
Joshua comes before God to pray about what-in-the-world-is-going-on and God reveals that what's actually going on is that the people haven't kept the one thing He asked of them. More specifically, He reveals that a guy called Achan hasn't done the one thing that was asked of him. He instead coveted the treasure of Jericho, took it, and hid it under his tent.
The end story isn't good for Achan. He dies for his sin. And the valley he dies in is called…
The Valley of Achor.
Yep. Seems like serious-trouble all right.
Which actually changes the whole way I read that verse in Hosea. Completely.
And it fills me with this abounding hope and joy that I can't even explain.
Because He will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
That means some incredibly life-and-eternity-changing truth. That the place of our secret sin, and our selfish desire and our inability to pay the penalty for our own wrongdoings without being completely destroyed, will instead be transformed into this incredible entrance point of hope. Because although we may all be more-than-a-little-bit-like Achan, Jesus has come to bring Light to our darkness, and forgiveness to our sinfulness, and has faced the death that we rightly deserved. In our place. In my place.
He died in the Valley of Achor so that it could be a doorway of hope for me. And for you. And for us.
So, this was my meditation this morning in prayer.
And I was praying this Hosea passage over some people I know. I spent the day hanging out with some brimming-with-potential-yet-incredibly-broken young people at a Free School here yesterday and their stories were weighing heavy on my heart. Because they need a doorway of hope that only Jesus can bring.
But the thing is, when you really dwell on the Word, is that your heart begins to really cry out, 'Lord, what does this mean? Make it real for me!'
And as I was praying, this was my question of God this morning: 'Papa, what does this look like for me? What is the doorway of hope like? What does this look like?'
So I prayed my many, many questions, and I heard God speak to me real clearly. This is pretty funny. And pretty God.
'Peta, will you stop speaking so you can actually listen.'
Yep. So I did. I was quiet. I for once didn't fight Him and gave up my incessant need to ramble in the Presence of Holy Spirit.
And immediately I saw this picture outplay.
I was with Jesus. He was leading me into and through this vast room. It was a long chamber, like those old school treasure halls you see in movies, and it was overflowing with gold and silver and jewels. There were shelves and shelves of various treasure and the light was so bright because of the glow from the metal and stones.
But Jesus was moving through the chamber. Fast. Through one part of the hall. Into another. And another. Past this immeasurable amount of wealth and beauty stacked from floor to ceilings.
I followed Him in silence, trying to take it all in.
Eventually, after a long time, we got to the very back of the hall. And on the floor there was a wooden trapdoor. It looked pretty out of place considering the wealth that surrounded us.
Jesus reached down and opened the trapdoor and there were these few simple wooden stairs leading down into a very basically decorated room with a thin carpet and really small dimensions.
He opened his hand to gesture me down the stairs, and as I climbed down into the room I could see that there was a small girl kneeling in the middle of the space. And the space was filled with a light, but I couldn't see where it came from. The girl was praying and weeping, although not in despair, but in earnest love for God, and in her hands she held a small cup filled with wine.
And as she cried her tears fell into the cup she held. And I knew that this represented her desire to be crucified with Christ.
I stood there taking in the scene, because it was breathtaking in it's beauty, and as I stood there Jesus walked past me into the room and knelt down so He was facing the girl. He placed His hands over her own, holding both them and the cup, and as He did He simply said, 'This. This is the treasure my heart seeks.'
It was such a beautiful picture.
So what's the doorway of hope like?
Well, I guess I think it goes back to learning how to pray. Because hope is found in so many ways, but often it's the small-sometimes-overlooked door at the very back of the room that it takes an age to get to. The secret place of prayer which is too-easily-forgotten, that leads me down into the place where I can kneel in abandoned prayer and be taught and held by Jesus and hear Him say those words.
This. This is the treasure my heart seeks.
Which is pretty awesome when you think about it.
And pretty challenging when I stop speaking long enough to listen.
Lord, teach us to pray.
Really, please do.
Oh, and my students yesterday brought me chocolates. Which was super touching and super lovely and I am super thankful for some brilliant opportunties and meetings and work that I have no time to mention just now… But just wait for the next blog… 🙂