Over the past few days it has become increasingly clear to me that there are four primary principles I need to get embedded in my being. It occured to me that these principles are really important for all followers of Yeshua, and I think it worthwhile to share them
1. We live under an open heaven
Pastor Bill Johnson is the senior Pastor of Bethel Church in Reading, California. His community has lived and operated in a state of revival culture for years now. This culture is not gimmicky and it shows no signs of burning out. Johnson believes that it is the responsibility of the ekklesia (he uses "Church") to operate with the awareness that we have access to the Will and Blessings of God. As long as we are aligned with His will we have no reason to anticipate anything less than the fullness of what we seek in Him. If we continually pray for what we already have (i.e. "please God open the heavens for us," etc.) we are operating out of a place of denial of what God has accomplished as well as denial of what He intended for us to accomplish. Please see one of his sermons on this subject : The Gate of Heaven
* I do not endorse all theological and/or exegetical positions in this sermon, but the main points are very good
2. When we look at another human being, we're looking into the face of God
I have most often heard this expressed in Jewish sources (particularly Rabbi Avraham Sutton-I have a link to his website on my link list). Being created in the image of God goes way beyond a metaphor to explain our ability to relate to Him. Yeshua expresses it most profoundly when he states that when we take in another we've taken Him in, we've taken God in. The truth is that we are meant to honor God above all, but honor of Him leads to full honor of another person. Just as Yeshua connected "Love the Lord..." with "Love you neighbor..." (The Hebrew gematria is actually the same also) we must be aware that our entire avodah (service to God) is centered on these two perpetually intertwining mitzvot; the ultimate reason for seeking: the miraculous, obeying commandments, learning Torah, prayer, and developing natural gifts. When we see the face of God in others we are more aware of the importance of the open heaven above us.
3. We are empowered to create belonging around us
This is a subject of importance that I learned from a series on "Healing the Brokenhearted" (a ministry begun by Gary and Kathy Oates). So much of human pain comes from the feeling that we don't belong. In fact, this is the core pain of every single human exile: the loss of belonging. Most of us may not be aware that each of us began our lives creating beloning: the fetus creates its own placenta; it didn't exist before. We have been empowered from the beginning to do this. Many of us spend more time looking for belonging in others, rather than creating belonging around us! The work of God is to create belonging and he has empowered us to do the same. We can only create from material we already have (only God creates ex nihilo). Therefore, to live with the intention to surround ourselves with belonging must mean the we essentially have always had belonging. Healthy community comes when the efforts of its membership function to make the community a place for people to belong and become more aware of their own unique belonging in the world. When we operate out of belonging, we are more able to see the face of God in others, and we access the open heaven above us.
4. The fundamental intention in prayer is the realization that our soul is always praying
There is a volume of Rav Kook's writings, Olat R'AYaH, that deals specifically with the subject of prayer. For Rav Kook prayer is a function of the soul that is always active. The act of prayer is when the the entirity of our being comes into alignment with what our soul is doing. This is because Rav Kook's paradigm is that our human soul has its root in the divine and that this is not severed. When we recognize that continuity between our own life force and the creator of the world our prayer becomes more that a recitation of words or reflections of emotional states; prayer is recognized as the natural state of humanity (to quote Abraham Joshua Heschel: "How can we be truly human if we cannot pray"). Prayer is the link that reminds us of our connection with God, brings a union between our will and God's will which brings blessing to the world around us. The real issue of prayer is not whether it is liturgical or spontaneous, communal or individual (all four are important and can even be simultaneous). The real issue is the extent to which our prayer life connects us to the unceasing energy and movement of our soul(s). Recognizing that our soul is always praying helps to establish our belonging and ability to create it, makes us more acutely aware of the value of others, and attaches us to the open heaven above us.
I pray that all four principles can be internalized within the entire ekklesia so we can be better equipped to live in the kingdom coming now.