In JRR Tolkien’s book The Hobbit, there is a scene (the chapter titled “Queer Lodgings”) in which Gandalf, the dwarves and the hobbit Bilbo have sought refuge and hospitality in the house of Beorn, a giant shapeshifter who turns into a great bear. They told him their story of trials and hardships with goblins and wolves. As they prepare for bed, Gandalf speaks...
‘Bilbo began to nod again. Suddenly up stood Gandalf.
“It is time for us to sleep”, he said, “for us, but not I think for Beorn. In this hall we can rest sound and safe, but I warn you all not to forget what Beorn said before he left us: you must not stray outside until the sun is up, on your peril”.’
Staying inside, the companions slept overnight, and in the morning, found their host Beorn had returned, having killed a goblin and an evil wolf, a warg, which were out hunting them, while they slept.
I have often felt that prayer is like this. It is a safe refuge, where we can rest, having brought our concerns to the Lord, He allows us to rest in the shelter of prayer, sleeping, while He goes out and deals with those enemies that threaten us without us even being aware of it, and we find in the morning that it has been made right. But the warning stands too...”you must not stray outside until the sun is up, on your peril”.
I’ve seen too that prayer can be like a toddler and his Father learning to walk. The Father may first carry the child, but eventually wants him to stand alone, may hold his hand for a few steps, but then must let go and take Himself a few steps away, so that the child can learn to walk towards Him by himself. The Father is still there, still watching and present, ready to assist, but a little more distant to allow for the child’s growth. Of course, sometimes like a toddler, I fall over, take a tantrum, refuse to get up and cry, saying at it is too hard. How grateful I am to have a Father Who is patient, kind and loving to deal with me.
Glorified and exalted is Your holy name, O Lord, now and ever and to the ages of ages!
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