Prayer in 2004: Classic and Charismatic

Today, my historical journey on the pocket scroll will take us to the far gone, bygone days of yesteryear — 2004.

In 2004, I lost two very excellent books. I still sometimes grieve for them. One of them was The Way of a Pilgrim, the other the poems of St John of the Cross. I had acquired the former at the Métis Nation of Ontario’s annual gathering (the official name of which escapes me) for, like, 50 cents. The Way of a Pilgrim is a Russian spiritual novel about a guy who wanders all over Russia, meets with spiritual elders, and prays The Jesus Prayer, seeking ‘the self-actuating prayer of the heart.’

That’s actually what it says.

This book was my first contact with the Jesus Prayer, which has subsequently become a staple for my prayer life, alongside the more Protestant/evangelical prayers of my upbringing and the BCP.

My mother’s only concern with the Jesus Prayer was one which she also has with much contemporary worship music — it is self-focussed. Nonetheless, she agreed that the idea of a simple, repetitive pathway to perpetual prayer was probably a good thing.

The poems of St John of the Cross were a gift from my friend Emily. They’re interesting, an insight into a different approach to Christian prayer and mysticism — the original ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ vision of Christian spirituality. But, unlike contemporary Christian music, at least St John of the Cross got his spirituality from the Bible (read Song of Songs with the majority tradition as the expression of God and His Church together for that to make sense).

In those days, instead of swanky striped shirts with cufflinks made out of watch gears, I wore T-shirts and cargo pants (for my UK readers, those would be trousers). And my cargo pants (insert chuckle) had a pocket that was just the right size for two small pocket books/mass market paperbacks.

So I put them in there.

Somewhere on OC Transpo (city of Ottawa bus system) they got off without me.

So. There I was, an eager, young undergrad, seeking the idealistic depths of constant prayer and union with the Divine.

What was I to do?

The OC Transpo did not have them in their lost and found.

I like to always have a devotional/spiritual l book on the go (sometimes I absorb nothing, but it’s better than not seeking at all; sometimes I fail to have such a book on the go). So I plucked off my shelf a book I had found at Ottawa’s murky, three-storey used bookshop of dubious quality, the Book Market — Nine O’Clock in the Morning.

This book, for those of you who don’t know it, is the story of the start of the ‘charismatic renewal’ in the Episcopal Church of the USA. I was captivated by the tale of how a high-church priest who didn’t go in for or even believe in such things became an outlet for the Holy Spirit pouring Himself upon His people with rich blessings, with healings and conversions alongside the ordinary miracles of daily life.

This book, and a visit to Ottawa by Bishop Malcolm Harding of Anglican Renewal Ministries reminded me that, as a Christian indwelt by the power of the Holy Spirit, I already had all the resources I needed to enter into a deep experience of prayer — John of the Cross and The Way of a Pilgrim might be nice, might be helpful, but they are not necessary.

This is an important lesson for bookish people like me. Some Christians should probably read more books. Some Christians should probably read fewer books. I should probably often put the books down and actually pray.

Christ through his life, death, and resurrection, as well as the power of the indwelling Spirit, has already given me what I need to enter into deepest communion with the Divine. All I need to do is accept it.

7 thoughts on “Prayer in 2004: Classic and Charismatic

  1. Always delightful, insightful and thought-provoking, cargo-pants boy (I remember you well in those!). OK; but “unlike contemporary Christian music, at least St John of the Cross got his spirituality from the Bible”?! So, Matt Redman’s “Blessed be your name” is unbiblical? Brooke Fraser’s “Hosanna”? (I can give you lots of counter-examples if you like.) I am mystified by your comment. (Now, if only I was mysticised… perhaps then I would have some insight….)

    • I meant the ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ kind; it’s not always clear where some of those images come from. Sorry about that! Indeed, a lot of contemporary music is biblical and more and more of it is heading that way, which is a nice thing to see! 🙂

    • Here are some examples of what the comment was directed at, which certainly does not include the best not only of modern worship but Christian rock/pop:

      I’ve fallen in love since the first time we met
      I want to be out of my depth in Your love, feeling your arms around me
      I will be Yours, You will be mine, together in eternity, Our hearts of love will be entwined
      I will follow you to the cross… with second verse:
      Kiss me with Your healing touch,
      Take me to the heat of the fire;
      Bathe me in Your liquid love,
      Oh, saturate me, saturate me.

      John of the Cross’s poems are also creepy; but they are biblical creepy…

  2. Thanks for the reminder! I am not at all bookish, but there are always plenty of other distractions to stop any of us actually praying. I like the way you are able to learn from very different traditions/perspectives/experiences and always appreciate your honesty and humility. This reminds me of that verse, ‘whether Paul of Apollos or Cephas, etc ALL things are yours…’ Glad we found you! Thanks for the encouragement and insights into all the things we hadn’t heard of before 😉
    Sally Ann x

    • You’re welcome, Sally Ann! Thanks for your kind words. I enjoy moiling for insights from throughout the Christian tradition — and these blog posts are as much an encouragement for me as for my readers! 🙂

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