Meditation and Intercession

Andrew Murray

I’m reading Andrew Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer just now. It’s been my devotional book since Easter. I wish I could say I’ve taken this long because I’m savouring and applying it, but, really, I’m just distracted and lazy. Anyway, many of the major lessons in this book about intercessory prayer are really about what historically we would call ‘meditation’ (with a bit of room for contemplation as well).

Historically, the Christian tradition has meant by meditation the active use of the mind to ruminate upon some passage of Scripture or some aspect of God or some deed in salvation history. To spend time with it and immerse the mind and heart into it as a way of drawing closer to God, of uniting the mind with the heart.

Murray counsels the reader at many times that in order to unlock the promises and mysteries of prayer, we need to enter into a richer relationship with God and a fuller understanding of His person and relationship to us. For example, one of the lessons Christ teaches us in the school of prayer is that our heavenly Father gives good gifts — or even the Holy Spirit — to his children.

The meditation on this verse takes two aspects. First, meditate on the Fatherhood of God. What does it mean for God to be our Father? And what does it mean, then, for us to be his children? What sort of gifts would a good Father give? What sort of children can expect to get anything they ask from their fathers?

The answer to the last question takes us to a meditation on how we relate to God. If we are not spending time with God, or if we are consciously living in a way that displeases God, how likely is it that God will give us what we ask? And how will we know what sorts of things God is likely to give?

Think on this: If you spend no time with your father, despite his desire to be with you, but want a car for your sixteenth birthday both for the awesomeness of the car and its practicality, is he really going to give you a car? He will give you a good gift, certainly. But not a car.

This is dangerous thinking. It can lead into moralism, legalism, the belief that we can merit God’s favour. It can lead into treating God like a genie. But then — if we spend more time meditating on the character and attributes of God, more time reading Scripture and meditating on its truths and God’s actions, more time being silent before the throne of God — frankly, if we spend more time with God, we will come to know Him well, and knowing Him will protect us from all the dangerous -isms of Christian thinking.

Throughout With Christ in the School of Prayer, Murray takes us on meditations and encourages us to be silent before God as well as to meditate upon Him and upon Scripture. The more we do these things, the better we know God and the more we are conformed to the likeness of Christ. The more our wills align with His. And the more we will see our own prayers answered.

Some people like to pit different kinds of prayer against each other. I have read pieces that are harsh on evangelicals because they do not know the great riches of contemplative prayer but only wade in the shallows of intercession. I have no interest in such ways of thinking.

All prayer is united, whether supplication, intercession, meditation, contemplation, adoration.

They flow and work together, and each is part of healthy Christianity. And there are probably more evangelical contemplatives than you’d think (and they may not even know that’s what they’re doing).

So: Meditation and intercession. They work together.

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2 thoughts on “Meditation and Intercession

  1. “Meditation and intercession — they work together”

    Hear, hear! I’m so pleased to read what you have written, and especially to see your recommendation of Andrew Murray.

    I’m in the second year of Reader Training (Anglican). One of the things that has troubled me for some time is the tendency, at the Catholic end of the Anglican spectrum as I have experienced it, to regard “Spirituality” as existing entirely within the world of contemplative prayer epitomised by people such as John of the Cross, Ignatius, and by works such as “The Cloud of Unknowing” and the writings of Meister Eckhart.

    I’m sometimes bothered by the occasional whiff of syncretism in the way these writings are used — and I emphasise that the syncretism seems to reside more in their use than in their content. But I’m at least as bothered by the lack of interest in other traditions of Christian contemplation, of which Andrew Murray is a striking example. So is Madame Guyon (who seems to have gained a surprising following in some evangelical circles).

    When I have raised this issue in discussion, claiming that folks such as Murray, T. Austin-Sparkes and A.W. Tozer are as “spiritual” as John, Ignatius and so forth, my points seems to disappear into the ether. Nobody seems interested, even though one of my main points has been that the writers I mention are deeply rooted in scripture.

    Some of Austin-Sparkes most thought-provoking writings concern distinctions between mysticism and spirituality. I don’t agree with everything he says; but he makes one think, and ask questions about one’s own spiritual presuppositions. And Tozer edited a book called “The Christian Book of Mystical Verse”.

    So I find myself wondering whether the folks who ignore writers such as these (including Murray) equate “Spirituality” with a mysticism that is at least as focussed on the self as on the Lord. It’s a kind of spirituality for our time — contemplative prayer as a kind of mystical therapy. I could be wrong; but I find it difficult to shake off that suspicion.

    So, to someone who is firmly evangelical in theology but inclined towards a high-Anglican view of the church and of orthodoxy (i.e. the boundaries of orthodoxy are essentially conciliar), your piece here came as breath of fresh air. I’m going to print it out and give it to the folks concerned.

    Thank you!

    Martin

    • Hi Martin! I’m so pleased that this post resonates with you. I suspect that there are some out there for whom Christian spirituality is ‘mystical therapy’, and it is a shame that it is so. And, indeed, many amongst the high Anglicans can be this way, which is a great shame, since the liturgy and the Prayer Book lead us directly to intercession. It is woven into our tradition.

      I am most fond of those like Gregory the Great who sought a way to engage in both contemplation and action. Much of the time, true scriptural and historic Christianity is not about either/or. ‘Either contemplation or action’ ‘either inner prayer or intercession’ ‘either preaching or sacrament’ ‘either Jesus is God or man’ but about both/and.

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