OF PROCESS IN PRAYER
READ: Acts 18:24-26
“An Alexandrian Jew named Apollos now arrived in Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, with a sound knowledge of the scriptures, and yet, though he had been given instruction in the Way of the Lord and preached with great spiritual fervor and was accurate in all the details he taught about Jesus, he had only experienced the baptism of John. He began to teach fearlessly in the synagogue and, when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they attached themselves to him and gave him more detailed instruction about the Way.“ – Acts 18:24-26
People ask, “Jim, what have you learned from your experience in the monastic life?” Many ways I could answer, but the first would be this …“True, authentic, life-changing, world-changing Christian discipleship comes by way of the grace of God being incorporated into a human life through a persistent and patient process.”
The Benedictine approach to nurturing and maturing a Christian disciple is by way of daily spiritual exercise extended consistently through time. Each day we share in the readings and prayers of the Divine Office, a yearly schedule of Bible readings and prayers shared seven times a day. Each day we do our chores in the House of God and each day we do our work in the world that God created. Each day we spend time in reading the Bible; each day we spend time in contemplative prayer; each day we record in our journals, prayerfully reflecting what the Lord has brought our way; each day we do Christian service in the world and each day we share Christian love with each other. Each week, we meet in our confessional groups (accountability groups). Each week, we consult with our spiritual listener. This way is but one way, the Benedictine Way to instruct a soul in the Way of the Lord.
That phrase, The Way of the Lord, or shortened, The Way, was the first name by which the followers of Christ were known … even before we we given the name, “Christians”. In the earliest days, we known as followers of the Way, probably seen to be a new approach to Jewish life, one different from the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essences, or the Zealots. Followers of the Way, in those most early days, were seen as Jewish people who fervently believed that the Jewish Messiah had come and that now a NEW WAY of spiritual living was to followed, a way in expectant return of Christ.
My own spiritual tradition, Methodism, was so named because of our founders “self-disciplined and methodical approach” to Christian discipleship. Each day, each week, the Christian followed a certain practice of incorporating the Way of Christ into their own living. Daily Bible study; daily prayer; daily accountability; daily alms giving; daily confession and daily commitment, all built around the framework provided by the old Anglican Book of Common Prayer (referring to the daily readings shared in common by the Christian community). The Methodist Way … in so many ways … was akin to the Benedictine Way … instructing a soul in more and more of the Way of the Lord.
Here at Greyfriars’ Abbey, it is common, very common, to see Brothers saying their Rosary. The Rosary is an ancient tool to guide one through a time of prayer by remembering certain scriptures and prayers with the touching of each bead and knot on what would appear to others as a Christian necklace. In my training, I was instructed in the rosary and I thought it beautiful, but not really fitting into my more Protestant sensibilities.
Later in my studies into the worship practices of the Eastern Orthodox Church, I received instruction in the use of the Orthodox Prayer Rope. It is simply a short rope with 60 or 100 knots divided into sections of ten by markers. With each knot, you pray the ancient Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus, have mercy upon me a sinner.” At each marker, you spend time in quiet prayer, first praise, then thanksgiving, then confession then intercession, then simply silent contemplation, closing with the Lord’s Prayer when you reach the end. For some reason, this “process” of daily prayer was helpful to me.
Now, for you my Loved Ones, the process the Lord would have for your instruction in the Way might take many forms … but whatever form, it ought to be a daily process, a weekly process, and a yearly process, allowing your soul to slowly yet most surely be incorporated into the way of your living. Like highly trained athletes, we must sometimes do exercises that may not seem to be like the game we are to play, but they condition us, they ready us, for the work we are called to do.
Well, this all sounds like a school lecture, my apologies … but from time to time, I reckon we all must go to school. Remember… it is rather simple to become a Christian, but it is far more challenging to become a Christian through and through.
Brother Anthony of the Cross