19th January 2018

Be still, and know that I am God

19 January 2018

The words of Psalm 46 are widely sung in churches across the country. You may have received a card containing the words of verse 10, exhorting us to be still and know that God is... well, God.

Although this command sounds simple and undemanding, it can provide both a challenge and an impetus for our prayer lives.

Sea changes

The MAF UK office in Folkestone is just 328 feet from The Leas, a Victorian promenade that overlooks the English Channel and — on a clear day — provides stunning views of the French coast.

This proximity to the sea allows us the opportunity to witness the changing conditions as the seasons pass and weather fronts come and go.

On wet and windy winter days, the surging breakers roll in and strike the shore with power, churning the sand and shingle, producing a deafening roar as if attempting to pound the land into submission.

In summer, the same water can appear motionless, lightly lapping the sand as it reflects the clear blue sky above like an ornamental pond. The transparency of the water is transformed, depending on the intensity of the swell.

On unsettled days, the depths become opaque — the seabed hidden from view as though a veil has been drawn to hide ancient maritime treasures.

However, during days of calm, the sediment slowly settles and the waters become limpid, revealing the wealth of marine life below the surface such as tiny fish, iridescent shells and mermaid’s purses.

Surrender

In Psalm 46 we are encouraged to ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’ The Hebrew translation of ‘still’ in this context is ‘raphah’. The word appears 64 times in the Bible and is used in the context of letting go or becoming weak — it means to literally let your hands drop.

It implies submission, surrender and weakness — words that strike a counter-cultural tone in 21st century Britain. This is the physical, mental and spiritual posture the psalmist calls us to when we enter a time of reflection, prayer and communion with God.

Forgetting to live

Singer Lou Rhodes wrote these lyrics to her song Little Things:

There’s so many things that we miss in our everyday lives
We’re so busy hustling, bustling chasing far away dreams
We forget the little things
Like blue skies, green eyes and our babies growing
Like rainbows, fresh snow and the smell of summer
We forget to live

Give us eyes like children so we live each day as our first
We’re so sure we know so much that we forget to listen
Then we want the fickle things
Like cheap thrills, fast pills and constant consumption
Like TV, CDs and cars that speak our names
We forget to live

We are busy people with increasingly hectic lives. One of our greatest challenges today is to stop. To drop our hands physically and metaphorically. To. Be. Still.

In the same way that we can allow life’s small joys to pass us by, so we can neglect and forgo the privilege of drawing near to our Creator and Saviour in prayer.

Settle down

The reason we are exhorted to encounter stillness is contained, as are many of God’s truths, in the natural world.

As we rush about — minds filled with information, screens demanding our attention, diaries filled with appointments — our activity hinders our ability to truly connect with God.  Our lives become clouded; obscuring our ability to hear from God and to know Him.

Only when we allow the swirling fragments of our lives to settle are we able to come to that place of surrender to the knowledge of who God is. This is the starting point for prayer.

Only when we allow our hands to drop and our minds to rest — becoming vulnerable in the process — can we pray with God’s heart.

Still new year

As we embark upon a new year, let us respond to God’s call through His Word to let our hands drop; to surrender our time and energy to Him as a form of worship. May this inspire and infuse our prayers as we pray from a place of knowing God and being known.

Please pray

  • Ask God to grant you stillness in body, soul and spirit; making Himself known to you and guiding your prayers.
    • MAF staff and partners face intense pressure on their time and energy. Pray that they too will be able to experience the stillness of God in the face of the many storms they face on a daily basis.


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