Lengthening Our Memory 4

Pantocrator.jpgChris Hall, in Worshiping With the Church Fathers
, examines the topic of prayer in the fathers and begins with a rather bald description of his own difficulties in praying — that paragraph is worth the price of the chp — and the chp is worth more than its own value. (Make sense? maybe not.) Anyway, there’s much to harvest here.

What, or who, has been your best teacher for prayer?

Clement of Alexandria: prayer is communication with God. But this brings in theology: “true theology is the adoration offered by the intellect” (86). Hall here explains the Trinity in terms of perichoresis: God is love in communion, God has always been love in communion, and God created out of that love. Prayer is communion in that communion and God wants us to talk to him because those who love one another want to hear from one another, even when they know what the other one asks.
Prayer is not the time to show off, and the fathers counseled against loud prayers (Tertullian, Cyprian).
They learned to pray from the Psalms. Daily. Some did it hourly. Some monastic communities prayed the whole book of Psalms every day! Aloud. Like Bonhoeffer, they saw Christ present everywhere in the Psalms.

On praying without ceasing: Hall discusses this through Cassian’s famous Conferences.  There is a reciprocal link between our bodily behavior, the inner state of the soul, and the cultivation of the virtues necessary for unceasing prayer (93). We must purge the passions (special meaning and not just strong emotions). Our thoughts need preparation by cultivating the “heart”. We need to cultivate moderation. Thus, unceasing prayer is learning to focus by ridding the soul, heart and mind of distractions.

Prayer involves supplication, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings. Christ is the model. Cassian’s figure “Isaac” speaks of “fiery [wordless] prayer” and finds it in Romans 8’s famous lines about groaning.
Cassian asks if God answers prayer? God is apt to respond to folks who are hopeful and confident in God, who are persistent, and who are assured that their prayers are answered. 
The next chp directly gets to the issue of unceasing prayer.
These chps touch on themes that I found so important in my study on fixed hour prayer: Praying with the Church: Following Jesus Daily, Hourly, Today
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  • Henri Nouwen and Richard Foster

  • Jim Martin

    I have learned much about prayer from the books I’ve read. For these teachers, I am so grateful. However, the one teacher who I want to mention was Mary Cordell in Pulaski, Tn. She was a woman who was a part of the little store-front church where I preached in Pulaski many years ago. This was the first church that Charlotte and I worked with on a “full-time” basis.
    I remember being impressed that she seemed to always be praying for someone. Or she would mention that God had answered her prayer regarding this or that. Being around her, I knew that she had something that was missing in my own life. I was especially impressed with the way she talked about the reality of God hearing her prayer with the focus being on God and not on herself. There was a humility about her and the way she spoke about prayer that made me want to have that kind of relationship with God.

  • What have been my best prayer teachers: Luke 18, The Lord’s Prayer and the Psalms.
    Who have been my best prayer teachers: Henri Nouwen, my 3 year old son and St. Teresa of Avila who prayed: “God, I don’t love you. I don’t want to love you. But God, I want to want to love you. Amen.”