Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Spiritual Disciplines

A few weeks ago, we went out to the Quebec countryside for a week's teaching on the spiritual disciplines and a weekend-long silent retreat. It was one of the best weeks of teaching Lauren and I have experienced in this school. Basically, the teacher, Jeff Pratt, who happens to be great friends with Brennan Manning (author of Ragamuffin Gospel), taught on adopting a daily rhythm of prayer similar to those practiced in monasteries for centuries. Jeff actually started what he calls an urban monastery ( in New Haven, Connecticut where he and the other members of the community commit to a common Rule of Life: 1. to daily moments of reflection and surrender (30 minutes minimum) 2. Holy Communion and prayer observed each Wednesday 3. Accountability friendships 4. Weekly acts of service to those locally in need of compassion or justice 5. Weekly sharing of Truth with pre-believers. It comes across as a very structured spirituality, but Jeff insists that these commitments are time-tested not only by the thousands of saints who've gone before us but also by Jesus himself. You can't read too far in the gospels without coming across a passage where Jesus goes off to pray. For us, it was nice to realize that although some of these disciplines may sometimes feel like striving or even legalism, the fact of the matter is that they bring us to a place where communion with God can take place. They don't cause communion with God, but they help us become attentive to his voice. As an example of a sort of daily rhythm, Jeff suggested praying over a psalm in the morning, maybe mid-day writing a prayer to him, and in the evening praying through music, etc. It's just one example. There are many ways to pray, and many books written about those ways as well. Fortunately, we believe in a God who values diversity and creativity. So, Lauren and I were really inspired by this teaching and have slowly begun to develop (individually and communally) a daily rhythm of prayer. It's a long journey, but we're glad to have begun.

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