Friday, 19 June 2015

The Practice of Prayer - Six


Encounter = True Goodness = Attraction = Motivation = Bonding = LOVE

The conclusion of this series of posts with the following paradigm for the PRACTICE of PRAYER. 

In Jesus time, the most common way a person would seek out higher learning would be to find someone who had gained much knowledge, so that they might learn from them, person to person, to be their student. They would then be known as a disciples. The Greek and Latin origins of the word disciple means: a pupil of a teacher, apprentice to a master craftsman, a learner, a student.

But to be a disciple meant they had to uproot themselves and go and attach themselves to their teachers, and remain with them wherever they went.

In chapter 10:17, of Marks gospel, we have the story of a young man who comes to Jesus with some questions about inheriting eternal life. Jesus directs him to the Commandments, but he wants to know if there is more he should know. It tells us that, "Jesus looked at him and loved him". Jesus could see that he had an open mind, seeking to learn, fertile ground to receive the first seeds of the gospel. So Jesus invites him to become his disciple. But there is a problem. His mind may be open, but his heart is divided. He is rich, with many possessions. To become a disciple of Jesus, he would have to leave behind all his possession and follow Jesus where every he went. His head may have been ready but his heart wasn't.

The gospels tell us that often there would be large numbers of people who would gather to hear Jesus teaching. But not all were actual disciples. They may be the sick seeking healing, or others looking for miraculous signs. At one point it lists the number of actual disciples at seventy-two. Later, in chapter 6: of John's gospel, when Jesus speaks of eating his body and drinking his blood, it tells us that many of the then disciples could not accept what he was saying, and so quit being disciples and left Jesus.

One who is serious about the PRACTICE OF PRAYER, must recognize that it is not an on again, off again, when I have time and interest, matter. It is a matter of discipleship - of BONDING with Jesus and becoming his student. The PRACTICE OF PRAYER, is school where one goes to learn, to be with the Master, learning the mysteries of the spiritual life and how to apply them to one's daily life.

"Jesus looked at him and loved him". In the end it all comes down to love. 
You did not choose me, but I chose you … No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. Jo.15:15
Everyone is called to live by the Commandments of God so that they may inherit eternal life. But it would appear that God has placed in the hearts of some a desire for something more personal - not only to know, but to "know why", - because you are loved personally.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Cor 13:


The Rich Man

As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.
You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.’”

He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”
The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!
It is easier for a camel to pass through [the] eye of [a] needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?”

Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.” MARK 10:17-27

Saturday, 13 June 2015

The Practice of Prayer - Five


We began this series of posts with the following paradigm for the PRACTICE of PRAYER. 

Encounter = True Goodness = Attraction = Motivation = Bonding = LOVE

The Book of Genesis tells the story of creation, how God created everything that exists. When the work of creating was complete, it says, "God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good." Gen. 1:31 

...... VERY GOOD ......

Then in chapter two, in the middle of God's good creation, we have this: Out of the ground the LORD God made grow every tree that was delightful to look at and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Gen. 2:9 

Now our role in this work of creation is given; "The LORD God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it." vs.15 Creation is not ours to do with it as we please. Our role is to be stewards and protectors of what is God's creation, not our doing.

...... CULTIVATE and CARE FOR IT ......

Finally the purpose for the two trees in the middle of the garden is revealed. "The LORD God gave the man this order: You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die. Vs. 16-17 

        NOT GIVEN                                  GIVEN
What is given to us is LIFE and God's good creation in which to live life; creation which is: - delightful to look at and good for food - What is not given is the freedom to alter and change, either the specific design or the intended purpose which God has given creation. We are to live life to the full, to delight in and explore the full beauty of God's creation. 

Is it not delightful to watch a small child discover its world. It is attracted by everything, everything looks delightful and good to eat, and so - into hand, into mouth. But not everything is meant for the mouth. What the child must learn is the intended purpose for all these wonderful things that surround it.

By  THE PRACTICE OF PRAYER one enters the school of life to discover and learn what God's good purpose is for their life - why he created me. God has sown in our hearts the ATTRACTION for life. This in turn becomes my MOTIVE in prayer, my goal - to discover who I am in God's eyes, what wonderful and good things God has in store for me - in this life and for all eternity - and by contrast, what may be harming me and preventing me from knowing and fulfilling God's purpose for me.

Monday, 8 June 2015

The Practice of Prayer - Four


We live in a time that prides itself for having discovered, and for living by, the Scientific Method. 
Ask a Question <> Do Background Research <> Construct a Hypothesis <> Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment <> Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion <> Communicate Your Results. 
It must be strictly followed if one hopes to discover the TRUTH about how things work in this world. How often do you hear that after extensive research, something has been proven to be good or bad. Then a warning is issued. If it is not true, it is not good for you. 

We might say, that one of our goals in the PRACTICE of PRAYER is to discover the truth about our selves, what is good and what is not, so that we might embrace God's Truth and live by it. So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." Jo 8:31

It is quite paradoxical, that in this generation that prides its self in strictly adhering to scientific truth for engagement with the physical world, chooses to embrace a subjective moral worldview for its social living. In other words, truth is what you say is good for you.

God is not only the author of all that exists, but it is God who assigns creation its very purpose for existing. When in creation something fulfills the purpose for which it is created, it is called true and good. It is not true and good when it fails to live up to God's purpose. 

People will say, it is my life, I can do with it as I wish. In truth, only God can give life. We are given our lives by God for a purpose with which we can cooperate or not. A good life is a life lived in harmony with God's will. A failed life is a life lived in rebellion to God's will.

The purpose for embracing the PRACTICE of PRAYER is to engage in a dialogue with the Lord, to learn and understand God's creative plan for our lives, and to measure the present reality of our lives by the truth of this standard.

"Speak Lord, your servant is listening. So, how am I doing?"

Friday, 5 June 2015

The Practice of Prayer - Three


There are many great people, who in the past, have had significant influence in the shaping of our society. We learn about them through the stories told about them, through their own words reordered in their writings and the traditions, laws and practices we now observe which they helped to shape. People often remark how they would really like to be able to meet them personally, to get to know them person to person; to discover for themselves what these great people were really like.

This is exactly what the "practice of prayer" is meant to do, to enable us to encounter, to meet and experience in a truly personally way, our Lord and God. In the O.T. in Exodus 33:20 it tells us that no man can see the face of God and live. But in John's gospel we read, "No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known." Jo 1:18. For us to see God is impossible. But God makes it possible to encounter him through the Incarnation of Jesus. Now it is possible to meet God, face to face and to know him personally.

In the forth chapter of John's gospel, we have that beautiful account of the Samaritan woman encountering Jesus one on one. How personal and natural their meeting unfolds. The woman makes her observation of Jesus' lack of a bucket to draw water. Jesus reveals his knowledge of the reality of her life now being lived. She brings up religion questions. Jesus draws her into the true purpose of religion, to experience God's redemptive Love. 

This life changing encounter sends her off with a new purpose for her life. She is now an evangelist; Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, and see (for yourself) a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” Jo 4:28
Here we have it, the goal of the "practice of prayer" - TO SEE FOR YOURSELF 

Encounter in prayer is"

  • REAL - not just me thinking about, reading about, alone in my thoughts.
  • PERSON TO PERSON - talking with, hearing back, speaking and listening.
  • OPEN and VULNERABLE - more about the heart than the head.
  • INITIATED BY THE LORD - work of grace, given by the Lord, welcomed by us.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The Practice of Prayer - Two


There is a popular expression you may be familiar with, "If it ain't broke don't fix it" A spin off from this saying might sound like this, "I'm OK, I'll call you if I need you." 

It appears that many today view God, religion and prayer in a similar way. One goes to church and prays only when they need something. 

We see a marked decline in church attendance these days. While the number of people who claim not to believe in God is increasing, more often the reason given for not going to church is that people do not see the need to go. Church and prayer are otherwise irrelevant. "I'm OK, I don't need fixing."

In the second chapter of his book, Opening To God, Thomas H. Green discuses what it is that makes prayer relevant. He draws an analogy between prayer and human love - specifically the love between husband and wife. The love that brings a husband and wife together is something they experience, rising up from within. It begins when they first encounter one another. They discover in the other something truly good that attracts them. It's this that continues to motivate them to seek out the other; not out of personal needs but out of a desire to share with and to share in the good they see in the other. 

Encounter = True Goodness = Attraction = Motivation = Bonding = LOVE

If you were to ask a longtime married couple the secret of their marriage, they may take you through a recounting of these various stages, but they would tie it all together with one word, LOVE. What brings  a marriage through the good times and the struggles, that all marriages experience, is the enduring bond of love, which more often than not, simply defies explanation, it just is.

What distinguishes the "practice" of prayer from simply saying prayers is the bonding together between the pray-er and God. "Getting to know you, getting to know all about you ... and all the beautiful and new things I'm learning about you ..." as the song goes. (The King & I)

God is the initiator of the encounter we call prayer. Jesus says, “You have not chosen me, I have chosen You (Jn 15:16) St Paul in his epistle to the Romans (8:14-34), gives magnificent expression to the fact it is the Spirit of God who works in us – not only to justify us but to teach us how to speak to God; that, in fact, “that we don’t know how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be expressed in speech. And he who searches hearts knows what the Spirit means, for the Spirit intercedes for the saints as God wills ‘ (Rom 8:26-27). T.H.G.

Fr. Green rightly points out that this encounter with the Lord is primarily the work of the Spirit. St. Pope John XXIII prayed in 1962 for “a new Pentecost” to be experienced in the Church. In preparation for the Second Vatican Council, he prayed for God to, “Renew Your wonders in this our day, as by a new Pentecost". The opening prayer of the Council prayed, "Unite us to yourself in the bond of love and keep us faithful to all that is true." [LINK]

Following the conclusion of the Council, in various ways, and through various movements this grace, [A Personal Encounter With Christ] [The Grace of Renewal] [The Baptism In the Holy Spirit] and the like, was experienced throughout the Church.

The Council closed under Pope Paul VI on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in 1965. It is now some 50 years since its conclusion and as mentioned at the start of these remarks, the practice of the faith appears to be experiencing a decline, primarily in the Western nations. Is it because the Spirit is not speaking to us, or is it that we are not listening? I suspect it is the later. Perhaps it is because our listening is being inundated by a tsumoni of digital bits and bites preventing us from hearing the Spirit calling us.

NO TIME, TOO BUSY: "Look, I am so busy right now, so much to do, so many plans waiting to go. I'll call you when I can find time." If this is the response a friend hears when they call the other to get together, the friendship is basically over.

Two questions:

  1. Have I encounter the Lord personally, inspiring me to form a bond of the heart?
  2. If so, how are we doing - growing together - drifting apart?

Featured Videos

Featured Videos.