Icons are a form of religious art designed to lead the viewer into prayer. The eyes are the mirror into the soul, the focal point of the Icon. A friend and mentor of mine on the spiritual path shared her experience with religious Icons. My friend went into a workshop on praying with Icons thinking, “I’m going to be told to gaze into the eyes and see God.” She had done this before many times. Instead she was told to look into the eyes and see God looking back at her. This was new to her and led to a deep spiritual experience.
So often in prayer we spend our time focusing on how we see God, not what God sees when he looks at us. It can be scary. We may ask, what does God see when God looks at me? God sees all of my sins, how can God still love me? We may want to run away. It can be hard to look directly into the face of love.
The writer of Psalm 139 had the same experience. It is a beautiful psalm of trust, a personal prayer. He starts by stating how well God knows him. “O Lord, you have probed me and you know me, you know when I sit and when I stand; you understand my thoughts from afar . . . Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know the whole of it.” (1-2, 4) God know what he is going to say before he even says it.
God even knew him in his mother’s womb. “Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made; wonderful are your works. My soul also you knew full well, nor was my frame unknown to you when I was made in secret, when I was fashioned in the depths of the earth.” (13-15)
God’s love is so awesome and pervasive that there is no way we can run away from it. “Where can I go from your spirit? From your presence where can I flee? If I go up to the heavens, you are there, if I sink to the nether world, you are present there, if I take the wings of the dawn, if I settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall guide me, and your right hand hold me fast.” (7-9)
In the midst of the writer’s praise of God, he breaks into a rant about the wicked. “If only you would destroy the wicked, O God, and the men of blood were to depart from me?” (19) While this strikes the reader as out of place, it isn’t necessarily unknown in prayer. We are deep in a beautiful prayer experience, only to find these thoughts of anger and revenge coming to the surface. Prayer brings everything to the surface where God can heal it. That’s the beauty of prayer, as well as a scary aspect. We don’t always want to see what’s under the surface.
The writer concludes by asking God to examine his heart and mind to find any sin within him and help correct this. “Probe me, O God, and know my heart, try me, and know my thoughts; see if my way is crooked, and lead me in the way of old.” (23-24) The writer humbly recognizes his tendency to sin and need for God.
It isn’t enough to look at God, we need to let God look back at us. When we are looking at God, we are in control, when God looks at us, God is in control. If we are to grow spiritually, we need to let God be in control.
Are you willing to look at God looking at you? 🙂