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The first step in prayer is clearing the channel, making it ready for God's love.
In February, my thoughts always turn to love--not only because of Valentine's Day but also because 32 years ago this month I met my true love, my wife. Yet as wonderful as the love is that I have for her, as important as it has been in my life and as much happiness as it has brought me, it is but a speck compared to the love of God, which is manifested to us in the form of His Son, Jesus.
The Bible teaches us that God is love. It is the very essence of who He is. What small child doesn't learn that in Sunday school? But for most of us, coming to understand His love is a process that occurs as we grow and mature spiritually.
It is as infinite as the sky appears to be. And God's ways of manifesting that love are, Glenn Clark writes in The Soul's Sincere Desire, "as uncountable as the stars of the heavens."
Clark's book has opened new realms of prayer to me recently. Through his words I've begun to see that if I want a message from the God of love my receiving apparatus must be pure and vibrant with love. Any unloving thoughts will interfere with the flow of communication between us, just as rusty pipes prevent the flow of life-giving waters from reservoirs in the mountains.
This means that hindrances such as unbelief, selfishness and fear must go. John, the disciple of love, considered fear one of the major sins that separates man from God. In fact, he believed that love and fear could not abide together. He wrote, "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers ... shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone" (Rev. 21:8, KJV).
John also wrote that "there is no fear in love; [for] perfect love casteth out fear" (1 John 4:18). According to Clark, John could have added, "Absolute fear casteth out love"--and without love we cannot have perfect prayer.
The first step, then, in preparing ourselves for prayer, is the clearing of the channel to make it ready for the inflow of God's love. "This is best done," Clark points out, "not by thinking of one's self but by fixing one's eyes on God. Think of Him as all-loving, all-powerful, all-perfect, with no anger and no distrust and no fear.
"Remember that every residue of wrong thinking, of malice or of selfishness in your heart or brain clogs the reception of the downpouring light of love."
The cleansing of the soul Clark recommends is intended to liberate us, to "make the way straight for the message of God to come to us." To be truly free, he says, "we must first remove all the beams and motes of Self, with its vanity, covetousness, and egotism; of Anger, with its brood of jealousies, envies, and faultfinding; and of Worry, with its children of fear and cowardice."
When we have done this, we will be able to see God in a way we couldn't when the channel was blocked. And merely to see God, Clark says, is to have Him. "One who sees--that is, one who possesses in his soul," he continues, "is one whose prayers are answered."
In light of Clark's teaching, let's use February, the month during which we direct our thoughts toward love, as a time to meditate anew on God's love, a love that surpasses human understanding. Perhaps the following affirmation by Clark--what he calls a "psalm of love"--will help us to focus on it more during the holiday and beyond:
Thou and Thy Love are infinite;
Thy Love therefore fills all space,
There is no space where Thy Love is not,
Otherwise it would not be infinite.
It is filling the very space which we are
Here and Now.
That Love is in us and we are in that Love.
We could not escape it if we would,
And we would not if we could.
It abides in us and we in it.
Therefore when we let go doubt,
and irritation, and self,
And resign ourselves completely to the great All-Power
That resides within and about us,
We are Love, even as God is Love.
Stephen Strang is the founder of Charisma magazine.
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