As I’ve mentioned, I’m teaching a class on spiritual formation and spiritual disciplines. The class is going well, but as is the case whenever a group of people explore spiritual formation, there are points that stretch all of us. The stretching is always both painful and necessary. After all, theses practices are designed to aid us in our drawing closer to God and becoming more like Jesus. That, it seems, has never been easy.
This week we focused on approaches to prayer. At root, we were attempting to move away from what I call “Laundry List” prayers and embrace a more robust view of the discipline. Prayers that perhaps are less about speaking and more about listening. Prayers that lead us more toward mystical union with God and a sense of His ever abiding presence with us.
Particularly we considered The Jesus Prayer as written about in “The Way Of The Pilgrim” and contemplative prayer as practiced by John Cassian. The Jesus Prayer is a simply repetition of these words: “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Today I took it upon myself to pray the prayer 50 times. The result? The Jesus Prayer keeps one in touch with their own sinfulness (and self-centeredness). Fortunately, this “in-touch-ness” does not come in a negative way, wherein the continued realization of our sinfulness depletes us making us feel depressed and worthless. Rather, one feels — quite appropriately, I think — the sense that they should be careful about the way they “face” the world and speak about others.
Perhaps as we are armed with the knowledge that we are sinners we will embrace patience rather than picketing with those we disagree with or have failed to understand. Perhaps within the church and without it we can extend grace and harmony to others. Perhaps we would be slower in claiming our own rightness or high ground when other faithful Christians disagree with us about denominational (or non-denominational) distinctives. And we should do so simply because we so desperately need it ourselves.
Next week I’ll be reviewing an upcoming commentary by attorney, theologian, author and friend, Edward Fudge. Edward’s new commentary tackles the meaty, dense and oft-misunderstood book of Hebrews. Trust me, you’ll be interested in what Edward brings to light from this fabulous book. Before year’s end I will be preaching through Hebrews and Edward’s commentary will surely be a trusted guide.
On my “Sean Palmer” page I’ve highlighted that I have reduced my out-of-town speaking and travel this year due to my new ministry context. However of you want to catch me somewhere I will be doing some limited traveling.
Pepperdine Bible Lectures: May 5-8 (Loving and Affirming the Justice of God)
Houston Summer Youth Series: July 13
Abilene Christian University Summit: September 20-23 (Hear The Voice)