(iv) Elevated Prayers

There was a time in the Church's history when the branches of trees held more than leaves and fruit and birds.  There was a time (circa 500s) in the Middle East when it was neither unusual nor uncommon to discover Believers who existed to pray, living on branches "tossed about by the winds, sustaining themselves on the fruits and leaves of trees"!
(Try not to blow yourself off your own chosen "perch" with almighty snorts of derision and dismissal!)
One such was David the Dendrite (lit. "branching"), a monk and hermit of Thessalonika who died around 540.  He devoted himself to a life of prayer and solitude, but soon enough the crowds came flocking to his door, such was his reputation for Godly prophetic insight and wisdom.  Our man had no ambition or stomach for being such a spiritual celebrity, So he fled the flockers and lived high up in an almond tree for three years.  In itself, this was a very prophetic course of action, when you bear in mind that the Hebrew for "watching" sounds just like the Hebrew for "almond tree".
"And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'Jeremiah, what do you see?'  And I said, 'I see a rod (branch) of almond.'  Then the Lord said to me, 'You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.' "  (Jer 1.11-12)
"I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top...But thou, O Lord...shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come."  (Ps 102.7-13)
But in spite of appearances, our "tree-hugger" contemplatives were "for real" and in earnest.  They constituted a serious response to God's unending call for us to "pray without ceasing".  (1 Th 5.17)  Their prayer house movement, apart from core day-and-night prayer, had four additional, fascinating Gospel-imperatives:
1)   Manual labour to generate funds to help the poorest of the poor.
2)   Seeking guidance through visions and dreams from the Holy Spirit.
3)   Living anonymously to grow in humility.
4)   Stamping out "tree worship" which was then common amongst pagans.  (I.e. The Christian lived up in a tree, and when folk came to worship it, he vigorously directed their attention away from the creation and to the Creator!)
And the point of this essay?  Well, I am certainly not trying to trigger a stampede of intercessors into the fields and up the nearest tree...like so many excited wanderoos shooting up a wandoo!  But I am wanting to say to (especially younger) Christians who feel called to a life of prayer, that they should be free...and massively and completely unafraid about breaking moldy moulds which have long since outlived any kind of creative usefulness.

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