Fraser's Hill Retreat (10-13 September 2003)
overwhelmed by what God has impressed upon my heart these three and a half days
up in the hills of Malaysia. It was really a time for me to seek God in solitude
as well as in fellowship with seven other brothers. Indeed God has blessed me
greatly by providing a theme for each of the three full days there.
God has been tutoring my heart on the issue of prayer over the past three years. The deep insights I’ve been gleaming have been so precious to me. On this trip, God had something special for me – through the verses from Luke 11:1-13 and the book Growing Deep in God by Rev. Edmund Chan, He etched upon my heart a life philosophy: to pray to live rather than to live to pray.
I really wanted to go back to the basics during this trip – especially after a Christian conference last week, which touched on prayer and the Word. I’ve been mistaken all this while that the Word precedes prayer but I now know that’s not true. Prayer has to come first. That’s because prayer is the life-link that connects us to God. It is the lifeline that links our spirit man to God in a fallen world that places the physical above the spiritual. Prayer realigns our focus back to God. That’s why without prayer, we cannot live a spiritual life and everything else becomes meaningless. I’ve also learnt that it’s a misnomer to call a person a “prayerful person” – anyone who’s not prayerful is dead – spiritually.
But prayer is never about us. Luke 11:2-4 gives us an account of the Lord’s Prayer, or the Disciples’ Prayer as Pastor Edmund calls it. And the first word of the prayer is “Father” (NIV version). This indicates that prayer is addressed to the Father and is meant for God rather than for us. Prayer is not to ask God for blessings, which He will give, but prayer is first and foremost about God Himself. Moreover, verse 13 doesn’t talk about God giving us physical blessings. Rather He will give us the Holy Spirit when we pray.
That day I made a personal
commitment unto the Lord, to model after Jesus and commit the most important
parts of my day in prayer – the first and the last moments of each day to be
spent in a time of personal connection with my Father.
I started the second day determined
to learn more about prayer and to act upon my desire to pray. But despite trying
very hard, somehow I couldn’t pray. So I went back to the Disciples’ Prayer
and made an attempt to pray through it. But I couldn’t finish. I stopped at
the first word – “Father”. Tears streamed down my eyes because I realised
I have never understood what the word Father means. And because of that I
realised I have never yet understood how to relate to my Heavenly Father.
the day, God revealed to me aspects of what a father does. In the traditional
context he’s one who provides materially for his children. But a loving father
does more than that – he shares the deep issues his children grapple with and
instructs them in the ways of righteousness. And he prays. There’s more to
what a father does, but at this moment this is one lesson I’m still learning.
All I know is that our Heavenly Father does so much more that any earthly father
will ever do. I know one day I’ll want to take my children up Fraser’s Hill
too – to instruct them in the ways of God – just like how my Heavenly Father
wants to lead me – towards paths of righteousness.
On the last morning, I set my alarm
for 6.30am, just the same as the previous two days. But I only got up one hour
later. However, when I started my walk, I realised the sun still shined brightly
upon the hill – just as it did the previous day; just as it has been shining
since time immemorial. It reminded me of a song – like the sun that rises
everyday, You are so faithful… It suddenly dawned upon me that God is like
the sun that is so faithful everyday. And it’s the same sun that shines over
Singapore as the one that shines over Fraser’s Hill… Just like our God…
The sun’s rays began to warm me as I continued my walk up the hill. Then I entered a shady area. But I still felt the warmth. It suddenly occurred to me that God is like that as well – He’s with us whether we walk in the sunlight or in the shadows. And He will continue to be our warmth no matter where we walk. What an awesome insight about the faithfulness of God. That’s especially in the light of the theme for my church's 25th Anniversary when we celebrated His faithfulness.
As the eight of us prepared to
leave the hill, we made a conscious decision to live out our commitments to Him.
That day, each of us came to God with a stake in our hands and presented it
before Him. To us, a stake symbolised a personal claim to the promises that were
made. It was also representative of staking the ground – claiming the land as
an altar to the Lord. Just as the great men of the Old Testament built altars to
the Lord, the eight of us built our own altars to the Lord. We took the stake in
our hands, broke it – as a symbol of brokenness before God, and staked one
half into the ground. The other half we planted in a jar of clay topped up with
soil from the hill. It’s to serve as a reminder of our commitment and to ask
God for the strength to live out our promises.
The road ahead is long and
uncertainty lies behind every turn. One promise that we have is that our God is
faithful in the difficult moments as well as the easy times. He’s our Heavenly
Father who loves us more than we can ever imagine. And He’s there whether we
choose to walk faithfully or whether we choose to run away from Him. All we need
to do is to connect to Him, to pray.
A stake in our hands is worth nothing to all. But a stake in His hands brought life to us all.
This journal entry was written by Mark Lim Shan-Loong on 14th September 2003.
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Trip to the Hill - Fraser's Hill Photos
Words from the Heart