Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The mountain and the multitude...

James Freeman Clarke on praying without ceasing. (not sure he is quite fair to "monks and hermits") but the overall point is a good one...

"Prayer without ceasing.

The Apostles, in their Epistles, frequently refer to Prayer as a necessary part of the Christian life. Unceasing prayer is urged 1 Thess. v. 17. So Eph. vi. 18, " praying always" &c. Phil. iv. 6, " In every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your request be made known unto God." 1 Tim. v. 5, the widow is spoken of who continues in supplication and prayer night and day. Rom. xii. 12, " Contine in prayer." Col. iv. 2, " Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving." 1 Peter iv. 7," Be sober, and watch unto prayer." James v. 13, " Is any among you afflicted, let him pray : is he happy, let him sing psalms." Jude i. 20, " But ye, beloved, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God."

This spirit of constant prayer was a natural growth of Christianity ; one peculiarity of which...was to insist on a permanent union of the soul with God, and an immanent presence of the Holy Spirit in the heart, instead of transient inspirations. Hence Christianity is spoken of as a Life ; as a constant, regular activity of the spiritual nature, — " the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus," — " eternal life abiding within us," — God and Christ "coming to make their abode in us." Such is the language of the New Testament.
Therefore, to pray without ceasing intends the unbroken union of the soul with God, so that all of life shall flow from God and to God. It does not mean a life like that of the monks or hermits, in which men retire from the world to devote themselves to formal acts of worship, and to make that the chief business of life : for such exclusive activity of the devotional element would not be as truly unceasing prayer as a life which alternates, like that of Jesus, between the mountain and the multitude. He who does nothing but pray is unable even to do this. His prayer necessarily degenerates into a form, into an outward routine, and so ceases to be prayer. When he takes himself out of life, where is the sphere of Christian duty, he loses the subject-matter for prayer. He has nothing to pray for, except in relation to the moods of his own mind, and therefore his prayer becomes wholly personal; and instead of praying out of an interest in Christ's kingdom, and the coming of his truth in the world, he prays only for himself. Therefore to pray without ceasing is to work for man in constant reliance on God ; to work for Christ, and in every moment of need to look to God for strength wherewith to work. While this habit of intercourse with God is maintained, while we thus bring all parts of our life before Him in thankfulness, penitence, or supplication, we fulfil the command to pray without ceasing."


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