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Prayer as The Way of Silence

“Solitude and silence are the most radical of the spiritual disciplines because they most directly attack the sources of human misery and wrongdoing.” So says Dallas Willard, in his foreword to Invitation to Solitude and Silence.

The monastic movement experienced and taught prayer as the way of solitude and silence. They saw it as a journey into the silent desert of surrendering love.

We follow Jesus in our conversion through the waters of baptism, confirming our identity as God’s beloved sons and daughters. Then the Spirit leads us, as with Jesus, into the desert of prayer.

If we follow and obey, we enter the inner desert of the heart through solitude and silence with God. That is the sacred space of testing and purification that transforms us for fullness of life with God.

The monastic practice of stillness (hesychia, quiet rest, tranquillity) was the essence of this life of prayer. It was a way of death and dying to live eternal life here and now. That’s why the monks taught prayer as “the remembrance of death”, discussed in my book Doing Spirituality (I cite the sources, p.250/1).

They called it the remembrance of death because the daily practice of being alone with The Alone is a progressive self-stripping from idolatrous attachments, false dependencies, and selfish preoccupations, to be lovingly attentive and responsive to God – as Jesus was.

Such silence is a desert of spiritual warfare. Though we greatly need it, few want to go there. Because it presses our buttons and reveals who we are. Totally naked and utterly dependent on God. We learn, however, to let go, to relax and be still. To release control by surrendering our faculties to God, the Transcendent Reality of Perfect Love.

In fact, the monks went so far as to say that prayer, the way of stillness, was a regular rehearsal for the day of our death. On that day we (will have to) surrender the whole of who we are, all our faculties, to God, in one final act of faith. No one will escape the spectre of death that enfolds us in its shroud of silence.

Evagrios the Solitary (345-399) said, “The way of stillness (of silent prayer) teaches you to remember the day of your death… visualise the dying of your body… and the day of your resurrection”.

This is not a morose religious exercise, but a facing of death. We break denial of death by dying daily through silent prayer, to live eternally in each moment of every day. Because God, in Christ, has defeated death through resurrection.

We participate in Jesus’ silent stripping – naked on the cross alone with the Alone – by which we die to our false self and rise to our true self in Christ, to hear God’s voice in each moment of each new day. We rise to live the Transcendent Reality of Perfect Love. We echo silence, like Jesus.

In summary, solitude and silence with God is a daily dying to the distractions and clamourings that demand our attention, that hook and feed our “uncrucified flesh”, that constitutes our false-self (Paul speaks of “dying daily” in 1 Corinthians 15:31, Galatians 2:20, Romans 8:36). And so we learn to die well, to let go and let God be God.

By trusting God in our ‘little deaths’ through prayer-full silence, we will “never die” as Jesus said (“not taste death”, John 11:25). We will seamlessly pass from this world into the next. It will take us some time to realise we have died, due to the quality of God’s abiding companionship in the silence of surrendering love.

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Following Jesus by Practicing Holy Spirit Administration (Part One)

To listen to the audio teaching of these notes click on http://followingjesus.org.za/sermons/being-the-beloved-21-practicing-holy-spirit-intimacy-or-administration-part-1/

Recap & Intro: Prayer and Holy Spirit 

The third spiritual practice in following Jesus is prayer, both the right and left foot of walking with Jesus, as in a) set time of daily prayer as Jesus taught in Luke 11:1-13 and Matt 6:5-15, and b) continual prayer-interaction through the day, as Paul taught in 1Thess 5:17. This week I focus on the latter, but in terms of practicing the abiding presence and leadership (“administration”) of the Holy Spirit. I ended last week on Luke 11:5-13: Jesus taught persistent perseverance (Jewish “chutzpa”) in prayer on the basis of faith and confidence in God’s goodness, that he will give us what we need and ask for. Jesus ends the passage with the key, v.13: “how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him and keep on asking, seeking and keep on seeking…” This joins prayer and the gift (ministry) of the Spirit, whom the Hebrew prophets promised God would be poured out in the last days (Joel 2:28-32).

Why the Holy Spirit? What is the practice of Holy Spirit Administration? 

John the baptizer announced the coming of the Messiah-King, The Anointed One, the Spirit-bringer in fulfillment of the prophets (Matt 3:11). The Spirit came on Jesus at his baptism (Matt 3:16-17) enabling “Be-Loved” relationship with his Father, in exquisite intimacy, via ongoing prayer-full interaction. This was the source of his life, ministry and miracles (Luke 4:18). Jesus said, “Though I am God’s Son, I do nothing on my own initiative. I only do what I see my Father doing, I only speak what I hear my Father saying” (John 5:19-20, 12:49-50). Jesus lived and ministered by the koinonia (intimate friendship) of the indwelling Spirit, empowered and led by the Spirit in all things. Continue reading Following Jesus by Practicing Holy Spirit Administration (Part One)

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Following Jesus by Practicing Worship – Part Three

For the audio teaching go to http://followingjesus.org.za/sermons/being-the-beloved-17-the-practice-of-worship-part-3-2/

Recap: Our Response to God – For All God’s Worth  

This week I’m finishing what I didn’t do in my teaching last week. First to recap: God reveals him/herself as The Word in creation, in Israel and fully in Messiah Jesus. Our response to God is worship, which is acts of adoring surrender (proskyneo, to prostrate and kiss, John 4:23-24), and a daily lifestyle of service (latreuo, to serve, Romans 12:1-2). In this way we express God’s worth for all to see and know. Worship exalts God as King over us and the world (Psalm 22:3): we receive, on behalf of all created things, his Rule & Reign of Love, anticipating and embodying the future Kingdom at Jesus’ Second Coming, when God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. That will be pure consummated worship. So, every time we worship, alone and together, we actually enter into that heavenly reality now, by faith.

What I’m describing is seen in the Old Testament, e.g. Isaiah 6:1-8f; and especially in David’s psalms, where YHWH’s Kingship (worth) is exalted in creation and covenant (e.g. Psalm 19). Psalm 95 is one of many that teach this experience of worship. It’s especially instructive for worship leaders. NOTE: a) each movement is a response to obey a call or invocation, “Come…”; and b) all three movements are body postures expressing inner convictions. Continue reading Following Jesus by Practicing Worship – Part Three

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Following Jesus by Practicing the Word – Part Two

Recap: The Practice of The Word and Daily Devotions 

Our highest value is our relationship with God: following Jesus in daily intimacy.
Our first priority and practice that makes it a reality is the discipline of The Word of God. Why ‘The Word’? Because it’s God’s self-revelation to us. Jesus is the Living Word, God’s full self-revelation. The Bible is God’s Spirit-inspired written Word or self-revelation – having power to transform us as we daily read, study, meditate, and memorize it.

We ‘do the Word’ in these four ways – placing ourselves under the Word’s authority – by having daily devotions or “quite time” with God. Do you have a specific time and place set apart to encounter God in prayer and The Word? To the extent we consistently engage in that time and activity the Spirit progressively transforms us. The affect of a long obedience in the same direction accumulates into fruit-full growth in Christ’s mind and character.

HOW do we have a regular “quiet time” with God? HOW do we make it meaningful? There are two major reasons why many Christians don’t have daily focused time with God: they don’t know what to do (“it’s boring!), and due to lifestyle choices (“I’m too busy”). CS Lewis says it’s laziness: we allow other people/things to determine our REAL daily priorities and practices because we are too lazy to set our own – life lives us, we don’t live life! The deeper issue, of course, is spiritual sickness, lack of hunger, loss of love for Jesus. As Pedro Arrupe SJ says: “What or who are you in love with determines everything: what gets you out of bed in the morning, what you read, how you spend your time, who you relate to… fall in love with Jesus, stay in love with Jesus, and it will determine everything in your life!”

LECTIO DIVINA

The Latin Lectio (reading) Divina (Divine) refers to a tried and tested Christian practice of encounter with God in the Word and prayer. It means “spiritual reading” or “reflective and responsive reading of the Bible”. It gives a simple framework to spend 30 minutes of daily quality time with God. Rooted in the Hebrew tradition of Torah prayer-meditation, the monks from the 4th century began to practice Lectio – some for hours a day. Monk Guido II (14th century) was the first to record the framework of Lectio Divina in the four steps of lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio. I will add a few NOTES… here we go… Continue reading Following Jesus by Practicing the Word – Part Two