Thursday, June 25, 2009

Paths for Praying

book cover
Longing for God
Seven Paths of Christian Devotion
Richard J. Foster & Gayle D. Beebe
InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL 2009
===>Click headline for more information or to order this book . . .
Prayer is the other primary vehicle for learning about God. Like his teacher Evagrius, Cassian [Conferences] emphasizes that it is impossible to enjoy uninterrupted communication with God if we are distracted. But what distracts us? Not just one temptation but five elements lead us astray: the concerns of the body, worldly thoughts that invade our mind, anger, lack of true humility and memories that rise up at the most inopportune times.
Our ability to pray develops as our life progresses. In a unique and honest examination, Cassian describes how prayer differs according to the purity of our soul. He concludes this conference by providing a definition of the four dominant types of prayer and then an extended treatment of the Lord's Prayer that outlines exactly how we should pray and what our expectations regarding prayer should be.
The four types of prayer are supplication, petition, intercession and thanksgiving. Essentially, supplication and petition are the lowest level, intercession is the middle level and thanksgiving is the highest level, where we rise above earthly concerns and see the world and our life as God does. The Lord's Prayer follows a seven-step pattern that demonstrates the ascent of our soul to God.
The Seven-Step Pattern of the Lord's Prayer
  • recognition of God
  • recognition that we exist in God's kingdom
  • knowing that God's will governs all
  • knowing God provides for our every need
  • learning to forgive as God forgives
  • overcoming temptation
  • recognizing that God's kingdom, power and righteousness deliver us from evil
Path One: The Right Ordering of our Love for God
Because it is fundamental to human nature to love and seek love, the central purpose of our life with God is learning to love in such a way that all of our heart's longings are satisfied. Right loving of God orders all the other loves common to human existence.
Path Two: The Spiritual Life as Journey
To see the spiritual life as journey is to recognize that every step we take in life requires reflection and discernment if we are to see God's role in it.
Path Three: The Recovery of Knowledge of God Lost in the Fall
Each one of us has a longing to know that we belong to God. To understand this part of our Christian life, we need to consider the spiritual life as the recovery of knowledge of God lost in the Fall.
Path Four: Intimacy with Jesus Christ
Across the long expanse of Christian history and culture, the effort to imitate Christ has played a primary role in the cultivation of the highest ideals and understandings of the Christian life.
Path Five: The Right Ordering of our Experiences of God
However impressive teachings about God's love may be, if divine grace were never experienced, these teachings would remain a mere abstraction. Our experiences of God confirm the validity of our life with him.
Path Six: Action and Contemplation
The nature of the spiritual path is never simply action or contemplation but a discovery of the balance that exists between the two.
Path Seven: Divine Ascent
Buried beneath the history of the church are sterling examples of a threefold way of divine ascent, of a deep, inward transformation that comes about as a result of the purifying of the heart (purgation), the enlightening of the mind (illumination) and the perfecting of the soul (union).

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