Monthly Archives: June 2011

John Wesley, Prayer, and Holiness–Part 4

Finally, I’m getting back to this series of posts… John Wesley’s Prayer Book gives guidelines for worship and devotion. I’ve been sharing how it is surprising in many ways. And I think it has major implications for the life of prayer and for holiness.
1. Worship and Prayer need structure–it’s rather surprising how free church-oriented so many of Wesley’s followers are today. Empty formalism helps no one. But neither does empty informalism! The Psalms show us the ancient patterns of worship and devotion. We do well when we let them guide us today, whether our worship is contemporary or traditional.

2. Prayer and Holiness go hand-in-hand. You can’t really have a rich experience of one without the other. You can’t really be devoted to God without spending a certain amount of time in prayer daily. Prayers of devotion cannot simply be laundry lists of requests. (more on this later) The life of holiness flows out of the life of prayer.

3. The genius of Wesley’s plan was the balance between extempore and prescribed prayers. However, perhaps a bit more structure to the daily plan would be helpful.

4. The Book of Common Prayer, or something like it, gives a serviceable model for prayer, Bible reading, and holiness. A lot of Wesley’s views on holiness and sanctification came from prayers and Scripture readings in the Book of Common Prayer (BCP). By having morning prayer, noontime prayer, evening prayer, and compline (bedtime prayer) it lays out a way to stay in communion with God throughout the day. It’s setup as the Daily Office and includes a plan to regularly read through the Bible along with one’s prayers. It offers a very complete vision of prayer. If one just mindlessly reads through it in monotone, it probably won’t edify very much. But if one seeks to make these prayers (most of which come from the psalms and other Scriptures) one’s own, by praying them slowly and meaningfully, great things can happen. One learns how to truly give thanks to God. One learns how to humbly come before God, acknowledging our human frailty and God’s glory. One learns how to praise God in a very full way. Then, when it’s time to ask God for your needs, you’ve set a better atmosphere and probably put yourself in a better mindset.

The Daily Office Readings get you through the Scriptures regularly. The earliest versions of the BCP had a rigorous program. A 7 day or 30 day pattern of reading all the Psalms as prayers. A 1 year plan to read the whole Bible. Modern versions have a 7 week plan for reading the Psalms, an annual plan for the New Testament and 2 year plan for the Old Testament.

You don’t have to use the BCP. Here is my recommendation for a nice combo plan of prayer and regular Bible reading. First, find a method and pace of Bible reading you can reasonably maintain. http://www.YouVersion.com has a boatload of possible plans. Then set aside time every morning and evening for prayer and Bible reading. (About 15-30 min each time). Pray through the equivalent of about 5 Psalms per day. Pray them as your prayers. Then offer up your thanksgivings and supplications(requests) to God from your heart. Then read through about 2/3 of your daily reading plan in the morning, about 1/3 at night. A couple times each week block out more time. Read the Scriptures slowly and out loud. Sit in silence and listen for God’s leading. Read again, really listening. Now make note of anything you hear God saying. If it’s unusual in nature, be sure to share with mature friends or a pastor, asking for feedback. Usually God will be encouraging you in your faith, drawing you deeper into holiness and helping guide you through decisions. Of course, whenever you’re facing big decisions have your church family praying with you and supporting you. Don’t try to fly solo.

Sanctification is a crisis and a process. We’re purified in an instant, but matured in character over time. In a very practical sense we get our holiness from time spent with God. God will use this twice-a-day pattern to help form you into a holy person over time. You can add brief times of prayer at noon and bedtime to keep you tuned in to God. Prayers of devotion help our hearts to be strangely warmed on a regular basis.
We are also formed by practicing our faith in community. Acts of service then allow that grace to make a difference in the world.

So there you have it: John Wesley, Prayer, and Holiness. There’s a lot more to be said, but there’s already a lot here to be lived. In classic Wesleyan fashion, let’s live it together for a while and then reflect on it more!

Grace and Peace,
Tim

Summertime…

They say there are only two seasons in Chicagoland: Winter and Summer.  It’s never been more true than in 2011!  (Just hardly ever the same from week to week, eh?)  But now that things are finally heating up don’t let your journey slip into a summer drift.  Make plans now to be intentional about fun and faith this season.
Summer time means great weather.  Sunny Sunday mornings can involve a challenging choice.  But consider the words of Holy Scripture:
“Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as we see the Day appearing.” (Hebrews 10:23-25)
Think about the patterns you set for your family and what those choices imply to your children.  Kids learn ten times more from what we actually do than from what we say.  If we’re not in church very regularly as they are growing up, they will not likely attend as adults.
So, plan some fun re-creational activities, get in touch with nature, rest more than normal, get back into physical shape.  But keep God at the center and keep church at the top of the priority list in summer.  After all, church is usually only a 1-2 hour commitment, including travel.  It’s not too hard to just build around it.  The joy you experience afterwards will be deeper and richer if you worship first.
And lets remember that church is not just about what we get out of it.  The big motivations in Hebrews are to respond to God’s faithfulness and to encourage OTHERS in their faith by showing our face.  Being present and available is the number one way we show others (God and church members) they matter.  Simply by making it to church, you make it easier for others to be faithful.
If vacation plans take you on the road, why not plan ahead to seek out a church to attend in the area?  www.nazarene.org will allow you to search based on the zip code of your summer destination and find a place to worship.  It will be worth it.  That happened recently for my family on vacation.  It took some doing, but it was a blessed way to start the day together away from home.  (God even worked it out for a street parking place right in front of the main door at a downtown church!  We were running very close on time and skies were threatening.  We were so glad we didn’t bail on our plan…)
If no churches are reachable, still plan to worship informally as a family.  Take along a bible and a hymnal or prayer guide.  Spend a few minutes singing, praying, and encouraging each other.  In fact, worship more at home during the week all summer long!  If you have a little more time available, give a little of that time back to God.  Show your friends and family that faith can be fun and is not just for Sundays!  If you can involve your family & friends you will bless them immensely.  You’ll be surprised how much they enjoy it, especially if they help you plan it. (this involves flexibility but reaps a great reward)
Finally, plan for regular giving patterns as well.  Your church will greatly appreciate it if you can post-date a check before you head out of town.  The needs still arise and the bills will still arrive, even while you’re out of town!  Taking a few extra minutes to make these arrangements keeps your journey on track, even when you’re exploring new territory with family or friends.
Summertime…it’s finally here.  Enjoy it, not as an escape from faith commitments, but as an extension of your eternal journey with God!  Instead of becoming spiritually flabby you’ll emerge more toned; formed in faith like never before…

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