We pray for forty days because we ache for love. And unless our ache finds its home in God, we will be vulnerable to false masters. If that is still true for us who love Jesus and His Church, how urgent the need to pray for those whose ache is aimed at false gods! I refer specifically to the sensual gods that captivate humanity and compel them to forsake God for passion with mere creatures.
Spiritual and sexual longing are similar in several ways: we experience both as an ache in a way that pervades the whole of our humanity. We cannot confine sexual longing to our genitals anymore than we can limit the ache for God to our ‘souls.’ Spirituality and sexuality motivate us into relationships, the former with God, the latter our fellows. These unions can result in new life, regeneration, and blessed creativity.
Or compulsive drives that persuade us to shuck the good for what feels good. Electrified by the body before us, we forget that we are the body, His body, and thus responsible to many other bodies in what we do with our own.
What we do with our sexual ache for communion testifies more about the God (gods) we serve than any other witness. Do our hearts and bodies manifest one God who unites us in love, joy, and peace? Or do we in agitation bear witness of serving myriad images that fire us up and fracture our capacity to love others?
This is where spirituality—our ache for God—must precede our desire to redeem our sexuality, that ache for our fellow humanity. Surrendered to love Himself, we can begin to integrate the whole of our lives. However broken and misdirected our desires, we discover that the heart yielded to Jesus begins to become whole. We worship Him, the One, and grace is released that helps us take the next step in letting go of false attachments to the creature.
In that way, prayer is an exercise of desire. Through opening our lives to him, we are cultivating passion for God. Though we do not equate sexual passion for the spiritual, we must not dismiss the powerful imagery from scripture, and the experience of Christian mystics throughout centuries, that suggest holy one-spirit communion with God may just surpass bridal intimacy.
Let me give you a personal example. A while ago I was struggling with my sexual ‘ache’ in a way that I felt would be wrong to offer to Annette. I needed to go to Jesus. He revealed Himself to me as very human but clothed in glorious robes of righteousness. He enfolded me in His love and somehow both the ache and the impurity had a place to go. The latter was absorbed in His garments while my heart rested, secured in love and deeply nourished from the Source Himself.
‘Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth, for Your love is more delightful than wine…Take me away with You—let us hurry! Let the King take me into His chambers….I delight to sit in His shade, and His fruit is sweet to my taste. He brought me into His banqueting table, and His banner over me is love.’ (S of S 1: 2, 4; 2: 3, 4)
We begin our 40-days of prayer for deepening intimacy with God, and repenting over the sexual sins of our land, on September 28th. The entire prayer guide is now available as a PDF at: pray.desertstreamministries.org