Two Hands: Grief and Gratitude in the Christian LifeA Renewed SpiritualityNurturing Hope: Christian Pastoral Care in the Twenty-First CenturyThe Power of ListeningJoy Together: Spiritual Practices for Your CongregationSabbath Keeping FastingPrayers of the Old TestamentPrayers of the New TestamentSabbathFriendingA Garden of Living Water: Stories of Self-Discovery and Spiritual GrowthDeath in Dunedin: A NovelDead Sea: A NovelDeadly Murmurs: A NovelPersonality Type in CongregationsBeating Burnout in CongregationsReaching Out in a Networked WorldEmbracing MidlifeAdvent DevotionalDraw Near: Lenten Devotional by Lynne Baab, illustrated by Dave Baab

First post in a new series: Draw near

Lynne Baab • Tuesday June 14 2022

First post in a new series: Draw near

About 18 months ago, a friend asked me how I find the motivation to write a blog post every week. I had never thought about that question. I have simply felt compelled to write each week. Her question made me realize that the drive or push must come from the Holy Spirit and is fueled by my love of prayer. I write blog posts because I feel called to do everything I can to help people pray more easily, creatively, and joyfully. If I write a post that helps one person turn toward God more comfortably in pain or joy or everyday life, I am happy.

In that conversation with my friend, Jeremiah 20:9 came to mind. Jeremiah compares God’s word in him to a fire in his heart and bones (you can see a variety of translations of that verse here). Jeremiah HAD to speak God’s word because he felt compelled as if a fire were burning inside him. Apparently, I HAVE to write blog posts – I have written a blog post almost every week for 8 years!

My heart burns because Jesus invites us to draw near in all the circumstances of our lives, and too often people don’t take him up on that invitation. I want to give practical, do-able, and stimulating suggestions for prayer. My favorite verse about prayer includes that notion of drawing near:

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are, yet without sin.  Therefore, let us draw near to the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

In my key verse about prayer, “draw near” is also translated “approach,” “come,” and “walk right up to him.” Yes, yes, that’s what I want to help people do. Because of who Jesus is, we can draw near. Because Jesus understands our weaknesses, we can approach him. We can come to Jesus in our time of need. We can walk right up to Jesus and receive mercy and grace. In my eight years of weekly blogging, I haven’t written directly about prayer every single week, but the notion of drawing near to God recurs more than any other topic.

A while back I noticed that Christians seem to fall into three groups, each with a different center for their spiritual lives. Those three centers are prayer, the Bible, and service/action. All Christians engage in all three, but most of us experience one of those as more central as we walk with Jesus. I have mentioned my artist husband Dave numerous times on this blog. He is a serious student of the Bible, spending more than an hour every morning in detailed Bible study. Sure, he prays and serves, but Bible study draws him day after day in a profound, life-giving and fruitful way.

My mom has engaged in a lifetime of service and hospitality. At 97, she still irons the altar linens for her Episcopal church and enjoys her monthly commitment to set up the altar. Certainly she prays and appreciates the Bible, but her faith has long been centered in her service. Her frequent and lavish hospitality in my childhood was an enormous model for me.

I enjoy hospitality, I definitely try to serve, and I appreciate the Bible very much, but the heart of my spiritual life is prayer. The Bible is essential for me because it teaches me about Jesus, the One to whom I draw near. The Bible gives me the Psalms, the Apostle Paul’s prayers, and numerous other prayers by individuals that help me pray more deeply. I could not pray if I hadn’t engaged in years of Bible study. As I pray, I try to listen to God’s call to serve. I expect that drawing near to Jesus, the kind-hearted and caring one, will impel me back into the world to care for the people he gives me. But the heart of it all for me is prayer.

Between February and August 2019, I wrote weekly posts on this blog in a series called “creative prayer.” My goal then was to stimulate my readers’ creativity in the area of prayer. For this new series, I hope to continue to encourage creativity in prayer, but I’m focused more on God’s invitation to draw near in whatever form that takes. I’ll be providing a variety of models and suggestions for prayer, and I’ll use “draw near” as the name of this series. Way back in my twenties, when I was on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, John White wrote a book that was published by InterVarsity Press called Daring to Draw Near. I’m tempted to copy his title because I loved both the title and the book so much, but I’ll stick with the shorter formulation of “draw near.”

We draw near to God in so many ways. We might pray the simplest prayers of all, “help” and “thanks.” We might imagine ourselves walking with Jesus, holding his hand, or sitting on his lap. We might pray using metaphors or the many names for God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the Bible. We might pray with our breath or by using prayers written by others, including the psalm writers, the apostle Paul, many other people in the Bible, as well as other faithful people who recorded their prayers. We might bring to God our grief and our gratitude at the same time. We do all this alone and with spouses, housemates, friends, neighbors, co-workers, small groups, and in congregations. We pray in hospital rooms and national parks. We pray in bed in the middle of the night and as we walk through our neighborhood.

In the series that just ended, entitled “receptivity and offering,” I wrote about offering to God many components of our lives while also expecting to receive blessings back from God. (The first post is here.) Offering various components of our lives to God is one form of prayer. In this new series, I’ll broaden my focus to many additional forms of prayer. I long for each of us to draw near to God, to walk right up to Jesus, as often as possible and with everything that is in our hearts.

(Next week: Be the gardener of my soul. Illustration by Dave Baab: regatta in Coupeville, Whidbey Island, Washington. I love to get new subscribers. Sign up below to get an email when I post on this blog.)

Three of my favorite posts in my earlier series on creative prayer:



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