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Panting for God’s presence

by davesandel on March 5th, 2018

Panting for God’s presence

Monday, March 5, 2018

The valiant Syrian commander Naaman contracted leprosy. He came to Elisha’s house and the prophet sent him the message: “Go and wash seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will heal and you will be clean.”

– From 2 Kings 5

Most creation myths begin with conflict and crisis among the gods. But in Genesis the story changes, and as John 1 describes, we see the Father, the “Logos” and the Spirit living together in peace. You might even say they dance and laugh together in creative joy. Can it be true that we are too are invited to the dance?

Now think of how Naaman must have seen his gods. They were not necessarily his friends. They gave him victories, yes, but they also gave him leprosy. What would you have done? He looked around for a more friendly ally in the sky.

And I catch my breath when I think of Elisha, sitting with his servant, alone in his house praying. Elisha was not surprised by Naaman’s arrival; he had invited him to come. But how did he know what to tell this intimidating soldier?

Some monastic communities “pray the Psalms” together, several times a day, seven days a week. Their 24×7 week is 168 hours, just like mine, but they “work around their prayer rather than pray around their work.” Trappist communities like Gethsemani in Kentucky, Mepkin in South Carolina and New Melleray in Iowa use Benedict’s sixth century prayer book, and they sing through all 150 psalms every two weeks.

In Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s primer on community, he said of the Psalter, “God has prepared for Himself one great song of praise throughout eternity.” Elisha joined in this prayer, and I imagine him too praying the words of God several times a day, seven days a week.

Naaman longed to be clean. Elisha longed for God. God loved them both. “As the deer pants for running water, so my soul pants for you, O God.” Naaman found his way to obedience and humility, and his flesh followed along. He was made clean.

For Naaman this was a red-letter day; for Elisha it was a day like every other day in his portion of time, as he joined with God in the “one great song of praise for eternity.”

Like a bird from prison bars has flown, I’ll fly away. Lord, must I wait for death to find you and praise you and be with you? What can I do today? Can I sit with you and sing and pray your prayers today?

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