Experiencing deepening Communion in the Love of God
Imago Christi helps people Experience the Love of God
in an ongoing journey of Abiding Prayer
that fosters growth in an Abiding Communion with Christ,
reflecting His relationship with the Father through the Holy Spirit.
What is "Abiding prayer"?
From the first and greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-38), every follower of Jesus is called to Love -- to receive love from the Trinity and return it with our whole being (John 14:21, 23). In Imago Christi, we call this our "First Order Calling" -- to be in relationship with Him, as His children, His friends, His Bride (John 1:12; 15:14; Isaiah 62:5; Ephesians 5:32). Then out of overflow of this transformative relationship in Love flows the "second command like it" -- the love of neighbor in all areas of life (Matthew 22:39-40). We call this our "Second Order Calling," -- "second" not in importance, but in priority, or order, because our love of others is only as strong and genuine as the love of God, out of which it flows!
Abiding Prayer focuses our on First Order love relationship with God in the first place, a method or aspect of prayer that is intentionally focused on the loving communion with God, without jumping prematurely into telling Him how to run the universe and to bless our plans. Abiding Prayer teaches our hearts to listen more and more deeply to God, attending to Him, more than talking to God in an otherwise one-way conversation. And yet we never really “grow out of” or leave verbal prayer behind. Verbal prayer always remains a necessary and vital part of our (primarily Second Order) relationship with God. He still bids us to “ask, seek and knock,” to intercede for others, and simply to cast our cares on Him.
God has patiently listened to us, stooped to speak our language, condescended to our categories, given us the needed guidance at the critical moments, and blessed our plans. But He wants more for us than being obedient soldiers carrying out orders. He longs for us to be his beloved sons and daughters, his friends. And if we will stop trying to second guess what God wants from us, we will find that He wants so much more with us as well. And there is more! There is always more. God is always inviting us into more, because the Triune God is the “more” that our hearts truly desire. God wants not only to be Savior, not only Lord, but the Love and the Lover of our life!
Abiding Prayer is the unique way that we can actively demonstrate our trust in God. The submission of our lives to God is not just a surrender of the activities of our lives, but our very beings, our whole self, our existence to God in the love of God. When we intentionally and regularly abide with God in prayer, just being with God, loving Him and receiving his love, we find we are empowered to discern his presence and voice in the midst of our lives as well, in the midst of our relationships and ministry with others. In time, Abiding Prayer helps us realize that our prayers too easily become all about productivity and effectiveness – ours and God’s. We slowly realize that our prayer has subtly been focused on bending God to our will, rather bending our will to his. Prayer ends up being another activity, something we do, an “it,” rather than part of a relationship. Through Abiding Prayer, we learn how to intentionally place our on First Order love relationship with God in the first place.
However, the ability to slow down and abide with God does not come overnight. It is a habit of the heart that must be developed over time and with time. Abiding Prayer is a journey, the journey of a lifetime, of a life with God, a journey in love that is accomplished by love, that transforms us in love, and leads us further into the Love that is God.
We learn Abiding Prayer best by doing and practice, rather than by simply discussing theories or mastering methods. The Lord is by your side, guiding and teaching you. Jump in! You were made in His image for this! We can only offer God our intentional exercises in increasing attentiveness and responsiveness to God in his love. And that is the essence of any spiritual discipline, a method of putting ourselves at God’s disposal for Him to transform and grace us as He wills.
The following "Give it a Try" Abiding Prayer exercises are designed to provide a taste of what intentionally Abiding Prayer is like.
Imago Christi also provides a host of other Resources and Coaching opportunities to encourage your growth through four distinct forms of Abiding Prayer. With God's help and grace, your growth in Abiding Prayer will deepen your Experience of God in your First Order Calling, and empower your Second Order Calling with the spiritual authority of His transforming love, flowing through you!
Give it a Try:
The Life of Imago Christi is formed by the rhythms of Abiding, Gathering and Mission. Our Abiding rhythms flow out of the personal rhythms of Communion with God that we foster in each other that focus on our experience of the Love of God. Try the following exercise on your own to foster your own Abiding, or in a Gathering of people, with whom you would like to build a Spiritual Community.
Read the following from Revelation 3:20 (TLB). “Look! I have been standing at the door, and I am constantly knocking. If anyone hears me calling him and opens the door, I will come in and fellowship with him and he with me."
We most often hear this verse in the context of an evangelistic message. But the verse was written to a church of believers in Laodicea (see Rev 3:14)! We are going to use this verse to focus on the way that Jesus is constantly knocking on the door of our hearts, even now, offering us deep fellowship, communion, with Him, if we will invite Him in.
- Read the verse again. Revelation 3:20 (TLB). “Look! I have been standing at the door, and I am constantly knocking. If anyone hears me calling him and opens the door, I will come in and fellowship with him and he with me." Take a few minutes to imagine the "room of your heart": What does it look like? What is in it? What are the furnishings? How do they represent what is occupying or cluttering your life?"
- “Look! I have been standing at the door, and I am constantly knocking." Take a few minutes to listen to Jesus knocking at the door of your heart. What is your instant, involuntary emotional response? Panic? Need to straighten up? Joyous anticipation? Something else? A mix?
- "If anyone hears me calling him, open the door." Go over to the door of your heart, and open it to Him. Take a few minutes to imagine: What Jesus' instant facial, emotional response to your opening to Him? What is your immediate emotional response to Him?
- "I will come in." Let Jesus in. Take a few minutes to imagine what He would do and where He would go in the room of your heart.
- "I will come in and fellowship with him and he with me." Now Jesus invites you to table. Imagine what kind of "table fellowship" He would prepare for you? A feast fit for a king? A high tea? Beer and pretzels? Hors d'oeuvres? Wine and bread? Take a few minutes to imagine what it is like to sit and "commune" with Jesus.
- What does the Lord want to say to you? What is the Lord communicating to you in communion, perhaps beyond the words, or even without words? What is the Lord imparting to your soul, as you abide in this place of intimate communion with Him?
- How do you want to respond to the Lord now? Tell Him.
- Close your time in prayer with a song, or the Lord's Prayer.
Taking time to "fellowship" or "commune" with God is a key focus of rhythms of Abiding with Christ in the Love of God.
Sharing the details of our experience of with Christ is a key aspect of Gathering a Spiritual Community.
Give it a Try:
One of the things that people most consistently mention as the hardest thing about Abiding Prayer is dealing with distractions. Our minds are running a mile a minute even before we get out of bed. There are so many things, noises, ads, demands and voices bombarding us that we need help to slow down our frenetic pace. We need some assistance to shut down the relentless rush of thoughts and tasks, in order to relax, and be more fully present to ourselves and to God, so that we can pray in a way that focuses our hearts on the relational aspect of life with Him.
The first line of Psalm 46:10 provides just such a pathway. The Psalm starts seeking refuge, strength and help from God, and therefore finding freedom from fear (vv. 1-3). Korah's sons go on to sing of a depth of the presence of God that is not readily noticeable, but that is the source of gladness for God's people. The "holy place where the Most High dwells" is likened to a river, whose streams of water gladden the city of God (v. 4).
If you have ever been to the Holy Land, or seen pictures, you know there are no rivers in Jerusalem, a few trickling streams in the desert at best. Imagine an underground river flowing right under the city that everyone drinks from. Centuries later, King Hezekiah built just such a tunnel to divert a river of water into the city, or rather under it, in case of a siege (2 Chronicles 32:30). Perhaps he even got the idea of the tunnel from the image in this Psalm!
This one line from Psalm 46 verse 10 helps us descend deep into our hearts to a place, where we can begin to avail ourselves of the holy water of God's presence that dispels fear and distraction and brings true gladness to the soul.
Turn off all other noises. Get into a quiet and comfortable place. Or just plug in some ear buds. Take a few seconds to breath deeply and ask the Lord's help in calming your heart, your mind, and soul. Then click on the video below, watch or just listen, and look at the Reflect questions below.
(Warning: Since the exercise plays on YouTube, a plethora of video options is displayed after the video is done. To avoid breaking the mood of the exercise, be prepared to Pause the video in its last seconds, at 1:54, by clicking anywhere on the video window below.)
- What struck you about the movement of the "Be Still Exercise"?
- What effect did the exercise have on your soul?
- What did you experience, when you got down the point of simple being?
- How did the whole phrase impact you, as it was all progressively read back again?
- What did you experience when the focus shifted towards God alone?
Repeat this exercise as you begin a time of Abiding Prayer. The "Be Still Exercise" is also found on YouTube on the Imago Christi playlist. Use it as one way to still your mind, and focus your heart on the ever-present God, who is our true Source of life and joy, even in the face of the "sieges" of life.
Utilize the "Give it a Try" exercises
at the bottom each of the Abiding, Gathering and Mission pages
for an experiential taste of these Rhythms of Transformation.
(Navigate between the Rhythms pages, using the secondary navigation bar at the very bottom of each page.)