There are moments when I can so clearly sense the prompting of God to pray more deeply, longingly; to be desperate in his presence. This is the phrase I used recently with a colleague when he asked how my prayer life was going. I told him that I pray and read scripture daily without fail. But they are often short, shallow prayers. Transactional.

I don’t ever doubt that God is listening or that he cares about me. My faith is strong and has allowed me to take enormous risks, and live with optimism and hope. But, I lack the desperation that I think is required in order to be a good leader or even a good Christian. I stop by the throne of God for a morning briefing, thank him for his provision, let him know how I’m doing, ask if there is anything new or essential I should know about, and go on my way. 

We are reading Water from a Deep Well by Gerald Lawson Sittser for my Theology and Spirituality of Work course at Regent College. Sittser highlights the theme of struggle that is found in the writings of the desert saints of the fourth and fifth centuries. “They believed that struggle is normal, necessary and even healthy in the spiritual life… the goal of life in this world is not ease, prosperity and success but intimacy with God, maturity of character, and influence in the world.”

I do not have a problem with this in principle, but in our Western reality, it’s like trying to survive on a diet of bread and water when the fridge is full of meat, potatoes, and cheesecake

To really struggle and be desperate in the presence of God is so foreign, even the most challenging things in life have thus far only caused me to work harder or just move on to something else. It is not in my nature to intentionally live with lack or struggle unnecessarily. I do not wish to be brought to my knees as many have, due to illness, poverty, or tragedy. There must be some way to experience desperation in the presence of God without the need for suffering.

We have everything we need to live a comfortable life, what need is there to come to God in desperation? Desperate for what?

Here, I attempt to answer my own question. It is not a lack of physical provision that impoverishes me, but a lack of holiness. I am impatient with people and find myself apologizing at times when my impatience leaks out in their presence. I desperately want to be a part of seeing others flourish, to empower them rather than dismiss them. I am desperate for God’s wisdom, but when I step into the throne room of God, I fear my impatience leaks out there as well. 

And so, my desperation is for the holiness of God, for his essence, his Spirit, his character. That I would be desperate in God’s presence for more of him, rather than being desperate for the things and relationships in my life to be just right.


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