Category Archives: Prayer
Scripture and Prayer – Listening Prayer
“Speak Lord; your servant is listening” 1 Sam 3:10
God speaks to us in many ways: nature, people, and events… In listening to God in prayer, we focus on Scripture as God’s word to me here and now. What the text meant to the original writers/ hearers, to others throughout history, may be helpful – but it can also distract from what God is saying to me now. We are not trying to preach mental sermons to ourselves, nor discover insights that will be helpful to others.
In any relationship, there is a great difference between hearing the words and really listening. So being attentive in this form of prayer is essential. Inner quiet, relaxation, attentiveness, total honesty: “God I feel bored, angry, excited, scared…”
Use only a small passage of scripture. This is not drinking beer it is sipping a liqueur. Taste God’s goodness. Ignatius of Loyola called this form of prayer an “application of the senses”. If you wish, you can use the same passage again and again, simplifying, returning to and resting at that point where you met God. Where God spoke to you. Savouring one phrase, one word. Resting “like a child quieted at its mother’s breast” (Ps 131:2)
Scripture is food. It needs to be taken in, chewed over, tasted, to be nourishing.
PICK a passage, eg. Can have it ready the night before, go to sleep with it, wake up with it…
PLACE solitude, can be uninhibited about our response, maybe a “special place”, a “prayer corner”…
POSTURE relax, do a relaxation exercise, music, flowers…
PRESENCE of God. “God you are here, you love me into being, you love breath into me, you wish to speak to me …”
PRAY eg. Begin with the Collect for Purity; ask for God’s Spirit, for grace to listen, to hear God’s word to me now…
Use imagination, PICTURE the scene, become involved, with whom do I identify? “That person is me” (2 Sam 12:7)
Read very slowly. PONDER. Can read aloud. Repeat. Read, Ruminate (Reflect) Respond (PROMISE), Rest. If a word or phrase touches your heart, savour it, repeat it, rest in it, return to it in a later prayer period, carry it in your heart for the rest of the day – for the rest of your life. Don’t hurry. Don’t try to look for lessons or profound thoughts.
Some scriptures: Gods covenant with me Is 54, Is 55; Deut 7:7-11
God loves me and calls me Rom 8:28-30
The choice to respond to God’s love Deut 30:11-20
Any favourite passages, one that suddenly comes to mind, a gospel passage, a psalm, a prayer.
who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:
help us so to hear them,
to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them
that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word,
we may embrace and for ever hold fast
the hope of everlasting life,
which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Cranmer’s famous collect for Advent 2, this version from CofE’s Common Worship. Surprisingly there is no NZPB version.
The Carmelite Order (link off this site) a website with excellent resources for Lectio Divina * “by Bosco Peters (www.liturgy.co.nz)”.
On one of my bookshelves there are books by and about Carthusians, then Camaldolese, Cistercians, Benedictines, and Jesuits. It is a sort of spectrum. Teenagers would probably describe Carthusians as the most “hard out” monks – “hard core”.
The photograph I took above is of Le Grande Chartreuse, from where Carthusians take their name. It shows, in the center of the photo, receding towards the back, a row of two-up, two-down town-house like constructions, one for each Carthusian monk. Each has his own garden surrounded by a wall. They live alone. Together.
In some ways they reflect what many of us Christians now experience. Many of us no longer live in a Christian society. We are Christians working, sometimes living, in isolation from each other. Karl Rahner’s description of the Christian diaspora is, in many places, being fulfilled.
The Carthusians spend much, most of their life alone. But they are conscious of the Carthusian community they are part of. They meet for prayer three times a day, for a shared meal (in silence) once a week, for “recreation”, and for a walk together once a week. Like them, we may be Christians alone, but hopefully conscious of being part of the larger Christian community. The body of Christ. Alone together.
The Fathers do nothing – the brothers help them do it
The Carthusian community is made up of “Fathers”, who spend their time primarily in the seclusion of their “cell”, and “Brothers” who have more of a community life and work around the monastery (in their “obedience”). PHOTOS
There is a saying: the Fathers do nothing; and the brothers help them to do it. The Fathers have room service – the brothers bring their food which is placed in a hatch. (Just like there may be black White Father brothers, and big Little Brother fathers) the brothers may be priests (transferred “diocesans”, or from another order). Traditionally those in the two-up, two-down town-house-type isolated “cell” have either been priests, or training for the priesthood. More recently it is now possible to stay in cell and not be ordained a priest.
As well as the Fathers and Brothers, there are Donates, who do not take the traditional monastic vows of stability, conversio morum, and obedience, but rather make promises to the monastery of poverty, chastity, and obedience. These promises may be regularly renewed indefinitely. Or one might make a life donation to the monastery. Then there are “Familiars”, sharing in the life of the monastery but without any vows or promises.
The picture I am describing is symbiotic, complementary relationships. All necessary for the healthy running of the life. Might not a parish, a church, a family, a school, any community benefit from realising and articulating that, different though we all be, with different gifts that we all might contribute, we need each other, we complement each other, we are many parts of the one body of Christ.
What is the point?
A common response to finding out about Carthusians is: “What is the point of that? What good do they do?” Carthusians have no active apostolate or ministry. You cannot go on retreat to a Carthusian hermitage. In 1984 Philip Gröning asked the Carthusian monks of the Grand Chartreuse if he could make a documentary about them. They said they were not ready for this, but they would get back to him. Sixteen years later they contacted Gröning. They were ready. Gröning was invited, without crew and artificial lighting, to record their daily lives, prayer, and rare outdoor walks.
Some try and justify this lifestyle by saying these monks pray for us, for the world. I’m sure they do. But I do not believe that is justification enough. We live in a world where often means and ends are confused. Or ends, “purpose”, “goal”, not even thought about. St Ignatius Loyola (much influenced by the Carthusians) has a clear primary goal: we are created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord. All the rest is the means to that end. We are made for God. The cloister, prayer, monasticism – these are just as much means as work, marriage, family, and television. The Carthusians highlight in a stark way, possibly the starkest way, that each of us is meant for God.
In the enthusiasm for the five-fold mission statement of the (Anglican) church (proclaim the gospel, nurture believers, care for people, transform unjust structures, care for creation) I have long been concerned that our primary mission as church – worship God – is being overlooked. Carthusians remind me of this. “by Bosco Peters (www.liturgy.co.nz)”.