Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Lengthening Our Memory 7

posted by Scot McKnight


Pantocrator.jpg
Chris Hall, in Worshiping With the Church Fathers
, examines St Augustine’s letter to Proba about prayer, and in that letter, Augustine said this:

“… pray to God in world at certain fixed hours and times, so that we may encourage ourselves…” (173). Hall observes that Catholics, the Orthodox and Anglicans have always had fixed hour prayer traditions, but he also notes that low church Protestants find such things at times legalistic. But he asks, “isn’t it true that the vast majority of our time is carefully regulated?” 
Thus our question: Why do you think we believe — the majority of low church Christians — that prayer should not be regulated? That is, why do so many chafe at the idea that 6am, noon, 3pm, 6pm, etc are set prayer times?

Chris Hall uses some words of Dennis Okholm about Benedictines: Who has distorted time the most, the monastic or the materialist?
Which gives him a break to discuss the Lord’s prayer, a prayer seen by the fathers as encapsulating the heart of prayer itself. He then offers a brief exposition by jotting down notes from seminal fathers and what they say about each petition in the Lord’s Prayer. A few observations, from many many more that that are not mentioned:

“Hallowed” was focused on how the saints live more than what they said.
May your kingdom come is quite individualistically read — about how God’s kingdom needs to be seen in our own heart and life.
Bread is normal food and desires; it also was Eucharist for the fathers.
Our call to forgive, according to Gregory, shows that we are participating in the work of God and this leads him to see theosis at work in this request.
Proba learns from Augustine that the Lord’s Prayer teaches us what to desire.
By the way, the subject of fixed-hour prayer has been addressed by so many, and I have links at the right to some prayer sites that will give you daily prayers (I most often use Divine Hours). And, if you are in need of an introduction to fixed hour prayers and the prayers used, I have written Praying with the Church: Following Jesus Daily, Hourly, Today
for just that purpose, and it’s at a low bargain price at Amazon right now.


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Mick Porter

posted February 9, 2010 at 7:05 am


Scot,
I’m a low church Christian who grew up Catholic. I listened to the sermon on the Lord’s Prayer that you did at Mars Hill and found it really helpful – I agree that sometimes in low church we just find something to be wrong because “that’s what the Catholics do”.



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Michelle Van Loon

posted February 9, 2010 at 9:46 am


Fixed-hour prayer is a way of discipling the time we’ve been given in our lives. I think low-church Christians (and I’d put myself in that camp, though in recent years I’ve been migrating toward some higher-church prayer practices) love the idea of “always-on” access to God without the formality of a schedule. They chafe at the religiosity of schedules smacking of obligation or works. The idea for many is that fixed hour prayer is a false, human-centered way of scripting connection with God. Low church people fear those scripts – even if what replaces them is something fragmented, undisciplined and shallow.



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Richard Jones

posted February 9, 2010 at 1:35 pm


I think Michelle is correct in her analysis, but I think the low church preference for “always on” access to God in reality is more often a “never on”. I think we all overestimate our attention to prayer and we probably need a regular prayer practice (if we are honest with ourselves) just to insure that we do pray. I recently listened to a two-part podcast with Frederica Matthewes-Green about The Jesus Prayer. She had some really useful insights on fixed-hour prayer and contemplation. I would recommend listening. I searched Frederica Here and Now in podcasts on iTunes. You want the 12/31/09 and 1/6/10 editions.



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Pat

posted February 9, 2010 at 4:24 pm


Good point about time being carefully regulated. I am expected at work at a certain time each day and if I miss that there’s a penalty. For me, I’ve never given much thought to fixed hour prayer and I suppose it’s because I look at prayer as a spontaneous act. Praying at a fixed hour or praying prayers out of a prayer book feels very un-spontaneous. However, as I’ve defended the use of rote prayers to low churchers with my premise being that we can’t know what’s in someone’s heart, it sounds like I need to take my own advice. There’s no reason that praying at fixed hours can’t be spontaneous in terms of how and what I pray.



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keo

posted February 9, 2010 at 5:14 pm


“Too Catholic,” “Too religious,” or “Too stifling,” I would guess, particularly if we carry baggage from going through the motions as kids. Many of us chafe at the thought of structure or discipline, as they sound like hindrances to a more lively and experiential religion or to our religious “freedom in Christ.” Of course, that quickly freedom starts to resemble spiritual pride — and most of us have probably never been disciplined enough to qualify for an opinion on spiritual disciplines.
At root, I suspect we will find not a little of that ol’ “I don’t like it or get it and can’t stand the possibility that you might” attitude.



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David Mosley

posted February 9, 2010 at 6:52 pm


I have, in the past year, grown to love the concept of fixed hour prayer. I often find it difficult to integrate into my life with consistency, but when I am practicing it, I not only enjoy the connection to Christians everywhere and from every time, but I also feel closer to God.
As to why so many low churches retreat from the idea of fixed hour prayer, I think it has a lot to do with its Catholic connection.
Indeed the pendulum has swung so far that it is finally beginning to swing back. This is why many evangelicals today and even low church individuals are becoming infatuated with and truly grown by this concept of fixed hour prayer. There are, however, some who were pushed (or pushed) with the pendulum away from all things Catholic. Some of them are staying at the extreme, as far away from Catholicism as they can. Many of them are elders and preachers in our churches. I’m not trying to say all churches are like this in the low tradition. My own church, while not pushing fixed hour prayer as a body, is allowing me to teach a class on monastic spirituality where this will be one of our topics.
My question is not why are some afraid of this spiritual discipline, but what can we do to allay those fears?



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Dana Ames

posted February 10, 2010 at 12:14 pm


David,
one thing that could be done would be to remind people that the first Christians were Jews, and continued many aspects of Jewish worship. (It was approximately ten years between the Lord’s ascension and Cornelius’ vision.) One of those aspects was fixed hour prayer- “seven times a day will I praise You”. When Peter and John prayed for the begging paralytic to be healed, they were on their way to the temple for – yes, that’s right – fixed hour prayer.
Dana



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David Mosley

posted February 10, 2010 at 3:28 pm


Dana,
That is not a bad idea, though I feel that the swing away from Catholicism was also a swing away from Judaism. Many people in parts of my church’s movement (though not at my church) believe that the OT is not useful for finding spiritual practices. Nevertheless, they need to learn it.



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