September 23, 2017

Ron Rolheiser on Priestly Prayer

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I have an idea some people have a misconception when I tell them I am going on retreat to a place like the Abbey of Gethsemani, where I am this week. I know I’ve had such wrong notions in the past, especially in my free-church evangelical days.

This is especially true regarding the daily services of prayer in which retreatants may participate. I can hardly imagine what my evangelical friends would think if I told them the monks pray nine times a day and that I delight in joining them.

Weekday
3:15 am Vigils
5:45 am Lauds
6:15 am Eucharist
7:30 am Terce
12:15 pm Sext
2:15 pm None
5:30 pm Vespers
7:00 pm Rosary
7:30 pm Compline

Can you imagine nine evangelical-style prayer meetings per day? No thanks. And if I were to tell those folks that the prayers being offered at Gethsemani were more of a written, liturgical style, I doubt that they’d grasp the purpose. They get together and chant nine times a day? You call that prayer? How does participating in that help you have a more intimate relationship with God?

In his excellent book, Our One Great Act of Fidelity: Waiting for Christ in the Eucharist, Ronald Rolheiser helps us distinguish two types of prayer, only one of which is understood in the evangelical world from which I come.

The first is public, or liturgical prayer, the second type is private, or devotional prayer.

These two types of prayer are not always apparent just by looking at them. Five hundred people can be together, each praying privately or together in a devotional fashion. Likewise, one person can pray the Daily Office by herself and it is liturgical prayer, the public prayer of the Church. These two types of prayer are not distinguished by how many people are praying, where they are praying, or whether or not they are praying together or individually.

In order to help us understand the difference, Rolheiser suggests we change the names of these types of prayer to:

  • Priestly prayer
  • Affective prayer

Priestly prayer is, in essence, not my prayer, but the prayer of Christ through his Church in which I participate. Rolheiser comments:

Our Christian belief is that Christ is still gathering us together around his word and is still offering an external act of love for the world. As an extension of that, we believe that whenever we meet together, in a church or elsewhere, to gather around the scriptures or to celebrate the Eucharist, we are entering into that prayer and sacrifice of Christ. This is liturgical prayer; it is Christ’s prayer, not ours. (p. 88)

Furthermore, this prayer is not for us but for the world. “In liturgical prayer we pray with Christ, through the church, but for the world” (ibid).

Affective prayer is different and serves a different purpose: to draw me as an individual closer to the Lord. In this type of prayer, I seek God in order to deepen my communion with him. As Rolheiser says, this type of prayer is designed “to open us or our loved ones up in such a way that we can hear God say to us, ‘I love you!’” (p. 89)

Both are necessary and important forms of prayer.

However, only the historic traditions grasp how essential the first type is. Only they grasp the significance of “common prayer,” prayer that is not immediately “relevant” to my life and my feelings, but which represents Christ and his entire church and is essential for the health of the world. Through such prayer the Church embodies and voices the priestly ministry of Christ, offering true sacrifices of praise and petition to the King who formed this world to be his dwelling place. Through it we experience the communion of saints throughout all time and in all places, and with them we cry out in lament and plead in intercession for the Judge of all creation to put the world to rights in Christ. Such prayer is most fully represented by the Psalms, and thus at places like Gethsemani the Psalms make up the majority of the prayers that are lifted up to God.

For the monks who chant the Psalms nine times daily, this is their primary work: they pray for the life of the world. Those of us who pray the Daily Offices throughout the world join with them and all the saints to share in that work.

Now I can also come to a place like Gethsemani to draw near Christ in personal devotion, and I hope I will, through various practices of reflection and formation. But Ronald Rolheiser has helped me distinguish what I do for my own spiritual well being and what I do for others in prayer. His distinction here helps me think more clearly about why I’m praying and participating in the various practices I engage in here and in my daily life.

As I wrote once before, the monks and the Church around the world, who pray priestly prayers every day at all times and in all places are the ones who are keeping the fires burning in the engine room of the world. And it is my privilege to shovel a bit of coal toward the Flame with them this week.

Comments

  1. Robert F says:

    Besides priests, would the Jewish people of Jesus day have prayed priestly prayer on a daily basis as defined here? Would Jesus have prayed priestly prayer on a daily basis? Was synagogue worship centered around a daily cycle of reading the Psalms like the cycle used by Christian monks, and others following the Divine Office, today?

    • Daniel Jepsen says:

      Good questions, Robert.

      I must take exception to the dichotomy Rolehiser makes. Especially troubling is his labeling of non-litrugical prayers as “affective” and the insistence that non-liturgical prayer has its purpose as, “to draw me as an individual closer to the Lord. In this type of prayer, I seek God in order to deepen my communion with him.” Ummm, …no. That is not the purpose of individual prayer. It may be one of the consequences, but it is certainly not the main purpose.

      The purpose of individual prayer is not distinct in purpose from corporal prayer: To advance the Kingdom of God. This is why Jesus gave this instruction on how to pray (Matthew 6:9-13).

      Acknowledging God as our Father in heaven (and ourselves as His children by His grace) and all this entails.

      Praying that God would be honored and glorified (and this includes through my words and thoughts and in my society)

      Seeking that His kingdom is advanced (and this includes through my service and moral choices, as well as in the church and world overall)

      Seeking that His will is done (both in my life and in the larger culture)

      Asking God for our daily needs, as those needs are seen through the above

      Seeking his forgiveness for my failures and sin

      Seeking his help and protection against temptation and evil

      To reduce this type of praying to “opening us or our loved ones up in such a way that we can hear God say to us, ‘I love you!’”, is, I think, to completely miss the point. If someone taught something like that at my church I would immediately correct them.

      Nor do I think we can make the case that the Lord’s Prayer is not intended for individual use, or that it is a liturgical prayer. That would be to import distinctions that seem quite foreign to the context of Matthew 6.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        This. Good critique.

      • Dan I respect that you as a pastor see this. I am not so sure that prayer is taught in the broader world of evangelicalism today as much more than the practice of personal piety. The insistence on “spontaneous” prayer and the resistance to anything “liturgical” is a hallmark of the evangelical world I know, and it also leads to the kinds of misunderstandings of Scripture that I wrote about to Robert above as well. Liturgical prayer – and yes, I think the Lords Prayer was given to be prayed this way also – forces me into the larger Story that I could never seem to get into when I was merely generating my own prayers. Praying the Daily Office literally (not romantically) joins me with the hosts of Christians down through time and around the world who are praying these prayers. A continual offering of praise and prayer is going to God from his people and I, as an individual, have the privilege of joining the chorus. That to me is much more inspiring than singing a solo and hoping I get it right.

        • This is good, too!

        • Chaplain Mike,

          I will be riffing on this Friday discussing a model how the spontaneous and the liturgical can work together to enhance prayer.

          • Tongues!

            …Can you imagine walking into a call and response type service that was all tongues?

        • Robert F says:

          CM, do you really think that prayer is being well-taught in the mainlines or the RCC? Or well-received, even where it is well taught? How many Roman Catholics or mainline Protestants in this country are familiar with the Psalter? How many are praying the Psalter?

          I venture that at this moment there are a lot more evangelical/Pentecostal/Charismatic Chinese/African/ Latin American Christians praying completely off the cuff than there are liturgical Christians praying the Office: does God prefer or weight one type of prayer over the other? Does God wish all those Chinese evangelicals/Pentecostals were praying the Psalms rather than improvising? I think not. Better to pray than not to pray; whatever gets you there is good.

      • On the one hand:

        “For we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.”

        And on the other hand:

        “And when you pray, … pray then like this: ‘Our Father…'”

        Hmmm…

    • Yes, actually, synagogue prayer is and was very similar to that of the Daily Offices. In fact, one can argue that it was even MORE priestly than the Daily Offices. Typically, it occurred at least twice a day: morning and evening, corresponding to the morning and evening sacrifices of the Temple/Tabernacle. Later a third mid-day service was added.

      The main features of these prayer services were:
      1) Recitation of the Shema.
      2) Recitation of passages from the Torah and Oral Tradition, especially those relating to the sacrifices that would take place at the time of the prayer service.
      3) A cycle of Psalms, though I don’t thing it was as comprehensive as the Christian monastic one.
      4) Recitation of the 18 Blessings (a series of thanksgivings and petitions).

      Other things are added here and there, but these are the main features.

      I remember a humorous story told by Cardinal Dolan where he was on a plane headed to the Holy Land, and he happened to be seated near a bunch of rabbis. After noting the similarities between the Cardinal’s zuchetto and their yarmulkes, and seeing the Cardinal’s breviary (i.e. book of Offices), they asked to see the book. Seeing its formats they showed him their own prayer book (called a siddur), and jokingly said to him, “I see you stole this from us, too!”

      In another anecdote, I have a PDF copy of a Hebrew translation of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. They translated the name for the morning prayer service, Mattins, as “Shachrit, which is the name for the morning prayer service in the Siddur. I believe they did the same with the evening prayer service (i.e. Evensong became Ma’ariv).

      • Robert F says:

        I was asking those questions because I didn’t know the answers. Thanks for responding to my questions, Fr. Isaac.

      • Christiane says:

        The Jewish people have, since ancient days, had regular prayers said at certain times. For example, this, said on their Sabbath Days:

        “‘The breath of every living being shall bless Thy Name, O Lord our God, and the spirit of all flesh shall ever extol and exalt Thy fame, O our King,’ and continues with the praises of God. . . .

        ‘Were our mouths full of song as the sea,
        and our tongues of exultation as the multitude of its waves,
        and our lips of praise as the wide extended skies;
        were our eyes shining with light like the sun and the moon,
        and our hands were spread forth like the eagles of the air,
        and our feet were swift as the wild deer;

        we should still be unable to thank Thee and to bless Thy Name, O Lord our God and God of our fathers, for one-thousandth or one ten-thousandth part of the bounties which Thou hast bestowed upon our fathers and upon us.’ “

  2. Beautiful, Mike. This is a useful way of thinking about prayer.

  3. Robert F says:

    I find it ironic that the Psalms, which are so deeply affective in tone and concern, and which for the psalmist or psalmists who wrote them centered around deeply personal concerns, are the prayers used in the priestly offices of prayer.

    • turnsalso says:

      Well, they ARE part of the Church’s common heritage. They’re given publicly, to the Church as a whole, so why shouldn’t they be used that way?

    • Robert, they are more than personal – they are the prayers of the king and the people of God, offered to God in the Temple. It is another example of our modern narcissism to view them as merely “devotional” and about personal piety. The Psalms are the prayers of the Kingdom.

      • Speaking of narcissism, I guess I’d counter that a lot of David’s psalms are very narcissistic and melodramatic.

        • Rick – and paranoid-sounding as well!

          A lot of the Psalms make me extremely uneasy, and I am no longer afraid to say so.

          • Rick Ro. says:

            I’m with ya, numo, and I’m not afraid to say so either. I read a Psalm before every Sunday school class I lead and I’ve almost found it shocking how many of his psalms sound Islamic-terrorist in nature, what with wanting death and destruction for all those evil people around him who’re making his life miserable and are so ungodly.

          • Just plain “terroristic,” i think…

          • Christiane says:

            if some of the Psalms make people uneasy, that may be a good thing . . . we want the Word to stir and to break up the fallow ground of our hearts . . . we want to awaken to that which is not limited to our own comfort zones

          • Christiane, I’m thinking about lines like the one where the psalmist praises the man who kills Babylonian babies by smashing thrir skulls against a rock, and similar.

          • Christiane says:

            when the Southern Baptist Convention set aside ‘Christ is the lens through which the Bible is to be interpreted’ in their 2K BF&M,
            they felt free to preach a more literal interpretation of the Scriptures without Christ as ‘the lens’,
            and they DID . . .

            those references to destruction of infants of enemies is symbolic for wanting the evil to cease and not to continue into the next generation . . . (the ‘Ban’)
            but instead of seeing the symbolism, strictly literal fundamentalists credit the ‘God of Wrath’ with extreme brutality and terrorism . . . of COURSE, this contrasts to ‘Who Jesus Is’, because many who follow the ‘God of Wrath’ also believe that Jesus is in eternal subordination to Him . . .

            I can’t understand this other than it does permit a kind of theology for fundamentalists that builds out of the ‘contrasts’ between the Father and the Son which shores up some of its dearly-held beliefs (ie. a wife should be submissive to her husband)

            What I don’t hear in that theology is much of the phrase ‘the Mercy of God’

          • Christiane, I’m Lutheran, born and raised.

            And i cannot explain away the sheer viciousness of that passage and others like it.

      • Also, the Church Fathers always saw them to be the passages of Messianic importance far more than even the direct prophecies in the OT. The Fathers encouraged the monks (and by extension, anyone who prays the Offices) to look for Christ hiding between the lines of the Psalms.

        • There’s a limit to this. It’s hard to imagine the Jesus who said from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” also praying that the heads of the children of his enemies would be dashed against the rocks, as one of the Psalms would have it.

          • Exactly!

          • Fr. Isaac says:

            It seems to me that we have two options when we encounter troubling passages like this: we can dismiss them, or we can wrestle with them. In this case, I think a Christological point of view combined with some historical and literary context can really help with that wrestling. To keep it very short, the curse was a product of exile and was as much a cry for justice as it was a cry for vengeance. Christ is ultimately the answer to both exile and to justice, though fleshing these things out is far beyond the scope of a blog comment! I’ll probably do a piece on this for our parish blog soon, as it’s a pretty common issue.

          • Fr.Isaac, that is what i have always understood, but it does not change anything about the innate viciousness of the passage in question. I am all for undrrstanding context, but i don’t think we do ourselves any favors by brushing these kinds of passages aside. The Psalms are deeply reflective of human nature – good and bad.

        • Fr. Isaac, i studied art history at one time, and from that, am all too aware that thismkind of thinking +:resulting typology can be taken to extremes.

          • Fr. Isaac says:

            As can any method of interpretation. I’m reminded of a professor of mine that dismissed any typological interpretation and insisted that only historical grammatical interpretation was valid. When I pointed out that the NT authors didn’t treat the OT this way, he said that they get a pass because they were inspired by the Holy Spirit. It goes without saying that I found that answer to be unsatisfactory.

            When typology starts dismissing context, when it blurs the line between legitimate interpretation and fanciful allegory, it’s gone to the extreme. But dismissing typological interpretation completely will cause one to miss some very important scriptural concepts and themes.

          • I think that, in general, xtians too easily fall back onto typology when reading the OT, instead of taking the Hebrew Bible as it is and for what it is. Add in the typology, but respect the texts for what they arr, and it’s ok.

      • Robert F says:

        CM, I’m not saying that the Psalms are only personal, or that they shouldn’t be used in what here is being called Priestly prayer. But they have an undeniably powerful personal dimension, and they are spoken through the voice of a persona, even if this persona expresses something more than the perspective of a single human being. The most primitive human emotions are given voice in the Psaltery, and whether we attribute them to a specific human being or Israel personified in the Messiah figure makes no difference; this is human nature at its fight or flight core, the core that makes us all deeply uncomfortable and that we like to deny as part of our own inner reality.

        In my own experience of praying the psalms, both with monastics during the monastic office and in my personal devotions, they have a deeply affective dimension that runs right alongside the priestly one; to separate one from the other undermines the power of both. I don’t think a strict distinction should be made between the two modes of praying; I think they overlap and complement each other; in fact, I think they are necessary to each other. That’s been my experience, anyway.

        • Robert F says:

          Having said that, I also say that the only way to access the deeply affective and personal character of the Psalter is to pray it inside and out, again and again, in the context of a cycle like that of the Daily Office; that is, the way toward the affective human heart of the Psaltery is by way of what is here being called Priestly prayer.

          As an aside that is based purely on personal experience and observation, and may be completely wrong, I don’t get the impression that many evangelicals are very familiar with the Psalms. Then again, neither do I get the impression that most Christians in the mainline or RC churches are familiar with them, either.

  4. I’m not sure how daily Mass and chanting psalms can be the engine room of the world, seems like that is overly sentimental or romantic. The newer monasteries have less of chanting or offices and more works of mercy. When I was a kid nuns were nurses or teaching at the Catholic school. I think the Trappists are still living off the memory of Merton.

    • Off the memory of Merton?? That sounds silly and wildly I’ll informed, I don’t say that maliciously but as a check for you. The Trappist order is about a thousand years old. My uncle has been one for 53 years. Merton, to most of them, was another brother who published some real good stuff. He is not central to their identity. They produced him, not the other way around. I may have had one conversation about Merton with my uncle.

  5. If I wasn’t married, I might have more time to pray/chant instead of recite on a moment-by-moment basis – “Yes Dear.” smile

  6. May God bless you in your time. May your eyes see what it is He has in mind for you. Come back refreshed and again with clearness to your way in Him. May your reflections be of the one who created you and your love grow and please share it with us on the occasions that he has made for such. I ask and speak blessings over you and yours on treasured time.

  7. turnsalso says:

    In answer to your imagined Low-Church Evangelical friend, I might answer that argue that getting together to chant nine times a day helps my relationship with God because it sets forth his praise in his own words, teaches me more of the Bible, and makes me humble by teaching me to pray about more than just what’s currently affecting me.

    I’m not sure I see this as a forgotten function of prayer so much as a difference in methodology. Surely everyone prays intercession from time to time; your “priestly” prayer appears to be just that, characterized by intentionality.

    • My charismatic fundamentalist church had a “prayer room” in it, where we were encouraged to spend hours each day soaking in the Word, praying in the Spirit, listen to the IHOP stream, all of it.

      And if you can spend 15 minutes, why can’t you spend 30? And if you can spend 30, why not an hour? And if you can spend an hour, why not two?

      Isn’t God worth it?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        At which point, you open yourself WIDE to Wretched Urgency and One-Upmanship:

        “YOU ONLY SPEND 23 HOURS A DAY WITH THE LOORD IN PRAYER! ‘BECAUSE THOU ART LUKEWARM, I SHALL SPEW THEE OUT OF MY MOUTH’ SAYS THE LOORD! ISN’T GOD WORTH MORE THAN THAT?”

      • @StuartB: just curious, was that Terrace Lake area, next to the Higher Grounds Coffee shop ??

      • turnsalso says:

        That kind of reminds me of Jesus and the Rich Young Man… told the Lord happily that he’d kept all the commandments since his childhood, and Jesus responded with “sell everything you own and give the money to the poor.” The Law is never satisfied, and those who would look to it for assurance either become proud because they are unaware of their transgressions, or hopeless after being run ragged trying to keep every last rule that it imposes on them. I’m glad you (and HUG, too) got out of such a situation.

        • Thanks, turnsalso. I got “out”, physically, 5 years ago this May. It’s taken me a much longer time to get out.

      • I’m not familiar with Terrace Lake, Greg, but it was relatively near a Higher Grounds coffee shop, although I imagine that’s a common cliche name.

        • Thanks; in the KC area, I only know of one (and that’s in the Terrace lake strip mall ) just wondering , that’s the area I was raised in, or just to the north a little. So my mom and oldest brother are still living in “IHOP” central , so to speak, and I have other great friends that are in the Grandview area.

          Because of my physical roots, I track what’s up IHOP-wise…. just curious.

  8. Rick Ro. says:

    Interesting concepts to consider, CM. I’ll just use this space to plug Anne Lamott’s book on prayer, “Help, Thanks, Wow.” Wonderful little book.

    • Christiane says:

      I love Anne Lamott.
      If you read her work, you might also like that of Kathleen Norris. Her book ‘The Cloister Walk’ is about a non-Catholic who comes to be at a monastery for a time as an ‘oblate’, and it is so beautifully written that when I started reading it, I could put it down (so much for considering myself a disciplined person ) 🙂

  9. Where would contemplative prayer fit in this view. To me it seems a third category of prayer.

  10. OldProphet says:

    So, the Monks are the ONES keeping the fire going in the engine of the world? These Holy Men, about…… .0000000001% of the worlds population? In the words if Jim Bouton, “yeah, sure”.

    • flatrocker says:

      OP,
      If you are going to cite CM, then how about referencing the full quote instead of cherry picking out of context to make your point. He states “the monks and the Church around the world, who pray priestly prayers every day at all times and in all places are the ones who are keeping the fires burning in the engine room of the world.”

      Seems to me the “monks and the Church around the world” includes them and me and you. That is if you are actually praying on a regular consistent basis.

      Beware of the ox that is gored.

      • OldProphet says:

        Granted, I stand corrected. Now, so it’s the monks AND those who pray all prayers all day, which means those who pray liturgically are the ones. Sorry, even more offensive. Pitting the holiness of one group against another not only stinks but has no basis in Scripture. I’ve known some great prayer warriors over the years who never prayed thru the Book of Common Prayer. They layed down their lives in prayer. To say that they don’t. Measure up to those of a different theology is an insult to their memory and to those who knew them

      • Christiane says:

        the monks ‘pray and work’ (ora et labora) in a rhythm that has meaning for them in a special way . . . their lives are given over to this cosmic rhythm where through the hours of the day, the Creator is thanked and praised and yes, power is drawn by the work of these monks for the sake of the world’s needs . . .

        an old Irish blessing says:

        “May God give you to drink from the sacred well of the Trinity”
        The gospels speak of the ‘living water’ that leads men to faith in Our Lord and thus is more powerful than just the understandings of men:

        Those who walk in the Spirit are strengthened to speak the WORDS that point towards Christ.
        These WORDS, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, are tuned to that sacred vibration that awakens a response in the hearts of those who hear them . . .

        those words are often best heard when they come from the humble people who understand ‘I must decrease, that He will increase’
        and are heard by those whose own humility has made a place within themselves for the Presence of the Holy One to come and reside . . .

        there is a place in this world for a sanctuary where people can come and rest and stay for a while with such monks and enter into that rhythm that comes from the sacred heart of Christ

        • Christiane, while i agree with much of what you say, i think the realities of enclosed life and the daily round of offices are not exactly hyper-spiritual. It’s easy to wax poetic about it when you’re a visitor, but living it is another thing altogether.

          • Christiane says:

            Hi NUMO,
            I think a monk or a cloistered nun has to be ‘called’ into that life . . . it is not something for everyone, no

            but if someone IS called
            , they are able to leave everything the world values behind them and say ‘yes’ to the cloistered life with a whole heart
            . . . here is an example:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIyn0_2GnCE

          • Christiane, i agree that few are called to it, but there are dsily strughles in that life, as in any other. Just saying.

          • Those struggles invlude personality clashes and so muc else that is, simply, human, and not always pretty. No cloistered monastic is on some higher plane of existence – if anything, the fact that there’s no escape from day in, day out life with the same group of people likely makes many things harder, not easier.

          • Christiane says:

            a family is like that, NUMO, and a very long marriage . . . I know, 47 years now . . . ‘stability’ may not be easy, but it is something valuable in itself . . . a stable home, a stable community, or ‘family’ . . . that is not for everyone, I suppose, especially in THIS country, where people often separate, divorce, or move instead of working things out which takes a great deal of strength and patience to do . . .

            but there are no bars keeping people within monasteries or even cloistered convents . . . a person may leave even if they have taken a vow of stability (to remain in that one community) . . . what keeps a person there has to be more to them than the difficulties that would drive them away . . .

            I remember an interview where Mother Dolores (Dolores Hart) said the difference between herself as a young Hollywood actress and her present self as Mother Dolores was simply that now, she took herself much less seriously. . . . perhaps ‘self’ is something that can be put to rest in a community that focuses on Christ . . . I can see that happening, yes

          • Christiane, i lived in a small convent for a year when i was in college. Plenty of personality, conflicts, believe me! Equally, a fine group of women and an experience for which i will always be grateful.

    • Joseph (the original) says:

      making such a statement, even if it was done in an effort to highlight the practice, seems counter to what Jesus said about prayer and praying in secret…

      then again, it may be no different than the claims made by the uber-supernatural intercessory types like Bickle’s IHOP or spiritual warfare advocates and their ‘spiritual mapping’ strategies over specific geographical areas.

      if those that participate in 24-hour prayer vigils or concentrated prayers intended to topple demonic forces in high places make inflated claims that such efforts are in fact supra-natural and effective, I feel they imply that such practices are being elevated in their importance over the less-than-super-spiritual pedestrian Christians that do not have such gnostic insights and therefore not as important in the plans of God regarding our earthly habitation.

      i’m not sure what the “fires burning in the engine room of the world” was meant to express or represent, but it seems a bit ethereal more than grounded in humble theology. both individual and corporate prayer is spiritual in nature and still much of mystery on how it impacts Divine response. I do believe God hears all prayers, but what He chooses to do with them is still His prerogative.

      and if the Father that sees in secret rewards those that pray in secret, it could be a small group of devoted monks stoke the mystical fires of world’s engine room in ways we cannot comprehend. i just would avoid making such a claim or advertising its efficacy in this manner. the rewards should remain a private matter as the focus should be on the Rewarder, but that is merely one man’s opinion…

      saude!

      • i’m not sure what the “fires burning in the engine room of the world” was meant to express or represent, but it seems a bit ethereal more than grounded in humble theology.

        It’s poetry/poetic. Don’t read theology into it, lol.

      • I would suggest that the monks are the ones praying in secret. They live hidden lives and only open a small portion of their work up to the public through the practice of hospitality.

        I would encourage those of you who are stumbling over the metaphor to go back and read my original post from Nov. 2011 to catch the full description of what I mean by it.

      • I do believe God hears all prayers

        I’ve been around enough people to know that not all believe that. They will teach that sin prevents God from hearing your prayers and you need to get right or else. Which sins? Any sin, conscious or unconscious, remembered or unremembered…but certainly “willful sin”.

        Can really mess people up. Seen it in my life and people I care about.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          I’ve been around enough people to know that not all believe that. They will teach that sin prevents God from hearing your prayers and you need to get right or else. Which sins?

          YOUR sins of course, not mine! I’M ALWAYS RIGHT WITH GOD, GOAT!

  11. I’ll beat this horse again because I care about this community:

    We can sing the praises of and encourage participation in these wonderful Christian traditions without making evangelicalism the foil each and every time.

    I wrote on CM’s facebook on Monday that I had just viewed a Thomas Merton collection displayed at Columbia University in memoriam of the 100th anniversary of his birth (many photos and manuscripts from Merton’s time at Gethsemani). I went with three other evangelicals from my evangelical church.

    I’ve started a rhythm of spending time at a Marionite monastery in silence and solitude. I started because an evangelical pastor/professor friend took me with him.

    The Kingdom is big. I want to engage. I want to be invited, and I want to invite others. But the invitation precedes correction.

    • Christiane says:

      Thank you for sharing that . . . we don’t realize that evangelical people also yearn to be a part of ‘the Church universal’ and deserve to be included in those whose Christian heritage began long before the Reformation . . . those catacombs and burial places underneath the Vatican which are ancient . . . that also is a part of the heritage of an evangelical Christian. The people who wrote and prayed and lived from the birth of the Church until the Reformation were also a part of the Body of Christ, and evangelical people CAN and DO find meaning in some of their writings.

      Why is it so easy to always think of the worst of anti-Catholicism when we think ‘fundamentalist-evangelical’ Christians? Have we let a few strident anti-Catholic and anti-Orthodox speak for a whole group?
      I’m afraid I have been guilty of jumping to conclusions myself, but that was before I investigated some very revealing blogs. People who are evangelicals are diverse and can think for themselves. And many are also on a journey of discovery of their own. Stereotypes can be so misleading.

      • Why is it so easy to always think of the worst of anti-Catholicism when we think ‘fundamentalist-evangelical’ Christians? Have we let a few strident anti-Catholic and anti-Orthodox speak for a whole group?

        Experience, mostly. It wasn’t few, it was everyone. From IFB to charismatic fundamentalist to Campus Crusade to Navigators to general evangelical. It wasn’t few, it was everyone. Leaders, pro and lay, up and down, regurgitated by those who grew up in it.

        But I’m under 30 years old living in the Midwest, so I have a very limited range of experience. I can just attest to how it was overwhelming. So it always surprises me when people tell me that’s not true or “you just didn’t understand”…which is false.

        • those prejudices also extend to liturgical Protestant churches. it’s so misinfomed, that attitude.

    • Sean, evangelicalism is the foil for two reasons: (1) because I came out of it and (2) because I care about it. If more folks would take your example and expose themselves to the Great Tradition and its riches, I would be very happy.

      Unfortunately a week can’t go by without me hearing about the differences between “Christians” and “Catholics.”

      • And this blog is about the “post-evangelical wilderness”, so it sort of makes sense…

        • It’s also about “Jesus-shaped spirituality,” which is why I’m here.

          I’ve been on my own journey, and I’ve found there is a profound difference between forging ahead in the wilderness to find higher ground vs. turning around every so often to hurl stones.

          • To be fair, someone could write a post mirroring this one, about how liturgical traditions could learn from evangelicals about certain kinds of affective prayers. Rolheiser is clear about that, and I agree with him.

          • “Learn from”…. both ways, absolutely! What I’m protesting is the language you used to introduce the content, not the content itself.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        Curiously enough, an acquaintance in my current church home (Nazarene) has recently joined the Catholic church. He has told people that he sees himself remaining in BOTH traditions. I kind of admire him for exploring RCC while remaining evangelical. I told him that there are elements of the RCC tradition that intrigue me, too, so I’ll be watching him and his journey closely. (I didn’t tell him there are other elements that make me squirm….LOL.)

  12. OldProphet says:

    Thanks, Christians. Your comment describes me.

  13. Dana Ames says:

    Our Father hearing what is prayed in secret: Of course. That goes for our devotional prayer as well as the majority of monastics who are nowhere near as public as those at Gesthemani, and there are many times more of them. The vast majority of the time, God’s work is done in very hidden ways and always through humble people. Our God is a God of humility.

    Christians participated in liturgical prayer from the beginning. The first Christians were Jews, and Jewish liturgical prayer happened 7 times a day, whether one prayed in the synagogue/Temple or at home:

    Acts 2.46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. 3.1 Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.

    Here Peter and John are seen taking part in the daily afternoon prayer in the Temple as part of their walk with Jesus. They didn’t give up their practice of liturgical prayer and begin again from whole cloth. I can’t imagine any person who trusted God not also praying in the way Rolheiser calls “affective” – it’s not one or the other, folks, it’s both, and that’s the point I think CM is trying to make.

    I only know that I was never able to have a consistent daily prayer life of any kind until in my mid-40s I began praying the Northumbria Community hours, folding P. Tickle’s “Divine Hours” prayer into it. I folded in my personal intentions as well. Praying the hours came about for me because I kept going farther back in time in my study of the history of the church. I figured that it couldn’t hurt to try it, since I discovered that that form of prayer goes all the way back to the Tabernacle, and people who identified with the God of Israel have been doing it ever since.

    I started with those Protestant forms, and kept with them for nearly 10 years, after which it was a pretty seamless transition to the Orthodox form. It has never been Law for me – no guilt involved at all, and I especially never beat myself up if I have missed prayer because of attending to my family or other people. It seems to have stuck, where nothing else did – even with plenty of exhortation in the Evangelical churches I attended, and my own perfectionistic tendencies that produced plenty of guilt when I didn’t have “quiet time” every day. There are plenty of other such testimonies in Scot McKnight’s book, “Praying with the Church.”

    Dana

  14. Having wandered around various forms of Evangelicalism for a couple of decades prior to returning to my more liturgical roots, I’ve seen some of the best and worst of both of these kinds of prayer. When liturgical prayer is done to “just get it over,” it’s awful. Folks that can zip through Mattins or Evensong in 10 minutes just don’t do justice to the prayers. On the other hand, when it comes to corporate prayer, I find that spontaneous group prayer is very, very difficult for me if it is any longer than a few minutes. People are uncomfortable with silence, and they tend to ramble, get self-focused, or in other ways say and do things that keep me from being able to give an “Amen” in agreement.

    I’m going to be very blunt here: I think a lot of the hostility I’m reading to Chaplain Mike’s post is because deep down we know that our discipline of prayer tends to be very lacking. Without some form of routine or liturgy (even if it’s an informal one), it is very difficult to build up a regular set-aside time of prayer. We cop out by saying things like, “Oh, I keep up a constant conversation with the Lord throughout the day.” C’mon, folks. We all know that’s just not true. Even when we’re spontaneous in our prayer, when we try to make it a regular discipline, it turns into a liturgy of sorts. That doesn’t discount times of true spontaneous conversational prayer. Those are very real and helpful. But if we’re going to have disciplined regular prayer, it will always become at least somewhat liturgical. I’d rather use tried-and-true liturgies whose theology I trust and whose prose and poetry is beautiful than try to reinvent the wheel every time I get on my knees.

    • Fr. Isaac, you are on the money with this. I am not part of the Anglican communion, but I love the Book of Common Prayer, and at one time prayed together with a small group of RC nuns daily. There’s *so* much more to this kind of prayer than mos of us are willing to accept – or admit – and one reason I like it is that, frankly, my mind is all over the place whenever I try to pray without this kind of framework. Back when I still had the millstone of “daily prayer time”” around my neck, I would nod off regularly while attempting to read the Bible, or end up thinking about all of the things I needed to do that day, or…

      In other words, I think we all need some structure, and corporate prayer can help provide that. I also love the sense of linkage to those who have been praying these same Psalms for so very long.

      • numo, In recent years, I have had a strong tendency to fall asleep when trying to pray, whether I’m praying in the Priestly or Affective ways, as distinguished in the post today. Very frustrating. But there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do about it.

        • Robert – i think it’s not something either of us has much control over, and while frustrating, it is not something, imo, that God holds against us for simply being human.

    • I’m going to be very blunt here: I think a lot of the hostility I’m reading to Chaplain Mike’s post is because deep down we know that our discipline of prayer tends to be very lacking. Without some form of routine or liturgy (even if it’s an informal one), it is very difficult to build up a regular set-aside time of prayer. We cop out by saying things like, “Oh, I keep up a constant conversation with the Lord throughout the day.” C’mon, folks. We all know that’s just not true. Even when we’re spontaneous in our prayer, when we try to make it a regular discipline, it turns into a liturgy of sorts. That doesn’t discount times of true spontaneous conversational prayer. Those are very real and helpful. But if we’re going to have disciplined regular prayer, it will always become at least somewhat liturgical. I’d rather use tried-and-true liturgies whose theology I trust and whose prose and poetry is beautiful than try to reinvent the wheel every time I get on my knees.

      I will be discussing this aspect of prayer on Friday. Stay tuned…

    • This is important.

      Without some form of routine or liturgy (even if it’s an informal one), it is very difficult to build up a regular set-aside time of prayer. We cop out by saying things like, “Oh, I keep up a constant conversation with the Lord throughout the day.” C’mon, folks. We all know that’s just not true. Even when we’re spontaneous in our prayer, when we try to make it a regular discipline, it turns into a liturgy of sorts. That doesn’t discount times of true spontaneous conversational prayer. Those are very real and helpful. But if we’re going to have disciplined regular prayer, it will always become at least somewhat liturgical. I’d rather use tried-and-true liturgies whose theology I trust and whose prose and poetry is beautiful than try to reinvent the wheel every time I get on my knees.

      I will be discussing this aspect of prayer on Friday. Stay tuned…

    • Joseph (the original) says:

      We cop out by saying things like, “Oh, I keep up a constant conversation with the Lord throughout the day.” C’mon, folks. We all know that’s just not true…

      whoa, whoa, whoa now…isn’t that a gross, unkind, judgmental over-generalization???

      as one of those that actually keeps up both an out-loud and mental conversation with the Almighty throughout the day, this statement smacks once again of religious superiority and one-upmanship…

      it implies that only the truly disciplined, devoted and uber-holy must make prayer a formal obligation that only those with the ‘anointment’ participate in…

      sheesh…

      what was intended to be a privilege and spontaneous has now been relegated to obligation that is a difficult practice to do well, or effectively, or consistently, or ‘correctly’…

      i’m sorry such perspectives continue to categorize and pigeon-hole personal expressions such as prayer into the pedestrian, almost acceptable, and saintly status of Christians that experience their connection with the Almighty in different ways. i don’t agree with the manner which one practice is elevated above the rest, but that is one of the crazy reactions to what was never meant to be formulaic or scheduled. for those that deem such approaches necessary or fruitful, blessings to you in abundance! just don’t patronize those that find such approaches unnecessary or even tiresome efforts at bending the Divine ear.

      Lord…have mercy… 🙁

      • Christ have mercy.

      • But if we face toward Mecca five times a day and fall prostrate…

        Indeed, as Robert says, “Christ have mercy.”

      • Fr. Isaac says:

        If you’re someone who can actually naturally do this, then that’s great and I hope it’s very edifying. But I know myself. I know my parishioners. I know my friends and family. And when any of us say it, it’s a cop out. The mental discipline required to both focus constantly on God and focus on what we are doing in our daily business is very rare and usually has to be developed. There’s a reason that prayer has been considered a spiritual *discipline*. There’s a reason why when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray he gave them a prayer rather than a technique or theological teaching. This isn’t spiritual one upsmanship, nor is it an attempt at yoking people into religious stuff. This is long experience with people and myself playing games with ourselves and with God. And that’s why when people are hostile to developing the discipline of prayer and say that they can just keep up an ongoing conversation with God, ‘Methinks the lady doth protest too much’ immediately comes to mind.

        • Joseph (the original) says:

          if you are someone that does not have a consistent awareness of daily communication with God either as mental conversation, or out loud (I happen to live alone in a small cottage), I would be the one to consider how your approach to prayer as something scheduled reveals you have this false dichotomy between a “focus on God” vs. a “focus on daily business…”

          that could be where we have a different understanding about prayer in general…

          and when you or your parishioners make such a claim, you can state emphatically that it is always a cop out??? you are absolutely sure about this???

          your sweeping conclusion was the main issue I raised about your initial comment. your attitude comes across as more spiritual hubris than Christian encouragement, gentle instruction, or just your own personal perspective+opinion. i’m surprised you don’t see the problem with making such a sweeping statement as if it were, well…gospel…

          {sigh}

          and now you can determine that those approaching prayer differently implies they must be, “hostile to the developing discipline of prayer”???

          sheesh…

          just another form of subtle religious elitism that permeates some of the comments here on this site. and please, don’t patronize any of us that approach prayer as less than your structured or formulaic methodology…

          your opening line: If you’re someone who can actually naturally do this, then that’s great and I hope it’s very edifying. comes across as gooey, saccharine-sweet spiritual condescension, which actually illuminates my primary peeve…

          Kyrie Eleison… 🙁

          • Fr. Isaac (or possibly Obed, but definitely not Fr. Obed) says:

            I see we’ve moved beyond edifying to personal accusations. Thanks, but I’m done.

  15. What about SILENCE? No bargaining, no wish list, no reminding god how deserving we are, no advice on how to run things, no advancing or inhibiting anything, no theology…

    Just SILENCE.

    • Robert F says:

      When do we start?

    • Robert F says:

      Actually, deep and careful praying of the Psalter can open up an inner silence unlike any other I’ve experienced, and I practiced “silent” Zen meditation a good many years before coming to the Psalms. I’m afraid I didn’t keep up my practice of reading the Daily Office, so I’m far away from such silence at this point.

      • I’m sure that’s true, but gosh, the psalms are poetry, and have been sung and chanted aloud since well before the time of Christ. My hunch is that the Psalter was made for man, not man for the Psalter, and that all of these modes – silence, sound, singing – are equally helpful and good.

        • Yes. I think silence and language arise out of the same place; neither can exist without the other, and in a real sense they are two facets of the same phenomenon. Without words there is no silence; without silence there are no words.

          • Christiane says:

            Silence opens a ‘receptive’ place in our prayer lives. . . ‘waiting in silence’ is an ancient and valued practice

    • Rick Ro. says:

      But ranting outloud at God like David does in some of his psalms can be very cathartic. If he’s a model, why remain silent?

    • I’m in! The monks call it Centering Prayer.

  16. Robert F says:

    Japanese Zen Buddhists who have acquainted themselves with the Bible are often quite amused at how little instruction is given in it about exactly how to pray. They reason that, just as meditation is a central spiritual practice in Zen, and so much time is spent in instruction on how to meditate, and the earliest Buddhist texts address this issue in depth, prayer is supposedly central to Christian spiritual practice, and so it would be expected that much time should be spent in instructing Christians how to pray, especially in the primary sources. Alas, it’s not so; I sometimes wish the Bible and early Christian literature spent more time on “how-to” pray.

    • Maybe the “how to” is of less importance than we oftrn think it is?

      As Fr. Isaac pointed out, the earliest believers in Chriet already uad a liturgical “structure,” -re. set times of prayer and more. Interesting how little emphasis there is on mysticism in the very early church, too. It took the Byzantines/Desert Fathers for that to happen, and neither developed all that quickly.

      My hunch is that the Judaic framework was assumed by both the writers of the NT and their audience.

  17. I think in his book about prayer, Richard Foster wrote: Pray as you can, not as you can’t.