In 1993 Dallas began teaching an intensive two-week residential course for Fuller Theological Seminary’s Doctor of Ministry program. His task was to teach about spiritual life in a systematic way so that its full connection to the work of the minister was clear. These sessions from 2012 are from Dallas’s last year of teaching the course before he died. Though a bulk of the course was usually centered on the nature and practice of disciplines, the beginning of the course dealt with more theological themes like the nature of spiritual reality and the end of the course dealt with topics in spirituality like vocational issues. [Editor’s Note: We know that the class was taped on other occasions and would be glad to find these recordings.]
Now, I want to just finish up a few remarks about the disciplines of engagement and especially with reference to prayer, I want to emphasize the disciplinary aspect of it. I have tried to present a basic idea of prayer; namely, it is talking with God about things we are doing together and that is, as I say on page 90, under Prayer. “Prayer trains us to reign with him eternally and immerses us in His undying life.”
Now, there are a lot of issues that can be raised about prayer and we talked about some of them last time; especially the idea that prayer plays upon a kind of structure that is cosmic in its reach and that a part of that may well be something that does not involve the Kingdom of God. So, I refer here to Larry Dossey. I think his book is called, Healing Words or something like that. Larry was raised a Southern Baptist and used to play the piano in revivals and he got enlightened and has interesting things to say about prayer as a kind of natural force and so you may want to look at some of that. I do think that if you are going to understand prayer in a way that you can live with it and use it for God’s purposes, you do have to put it in the context of the universe as it is and you have to think, “Well, what an arrangement! Why would there be an arrangement such as prayer in this universe?” I think that if you understand the Gospel of the Kingdom, you can easily come to see why there is such an arrangement as that or as I also put it, prayer is a power-sharing device for a world of recovering sinners. God doesn’t stand back. He involves Himself. [2:10]
Now, I’ve put in the notebook some stuff form Martin Luther’s quiet time which has become unreadable but that little book, I think is back in print and it’s an interesting thing because essentially you have Luther’s Barber is asking him the question the disciples asked Jesus, and Luther gave him a much longer answer and basically what Luther says is “You warm yourself up by reading scripture and then you might start in with the Ten Commandments and pray the Ten Commandments and then the Lord’s Prayer. He talks about how you use each phrase and turn it one way and another and then the Apostles Creed. So, for Luther it’s—I must say, I wonder if he actually did this very often—but at least you know, many people can’t pray because they don’t have words and that’s one of the advantages of some of the liturgical denominations that have really good words and they provide them to you and they help you pray. You need words and they need to be good words. It doesn’t mean that you don’t pray spontaneously. You can do that too if you’ve got some words and if you don’t, you are apt to fall into a pretty trite circle of language that doesn’t do much for you. [3:52]
I’ve also attached a piece called “The Nine Ways of Prayer” by St. Dominic and you can look at those if you wish. I think it’s quite instructive to see how St. Dominic did it. Some parts of this you won’t want to do probably. One of the ways of praying is to take the discipline, as it was called and you have seen the news, especially Islamic people on certain days whipping themselves and I don’t think that will do much for you but, it is interesting to see the different ways and postures that Dominic prayed and he was a great man of prayer. There is not doubt about it but I don’t want to take time to go into that now. I just refer you to them. [4:44]
I do want to say that there is a lot of talk about various kinds of prayer to day—mental or contemplative prayer but I do hope you will understand that not everything that people might do in conjunction with prayer is prayer. It doesn’t mean they are bad but what happens often is, people do not wish to endure the tension of asking and receiving and you have all sorts of rationalizations about that. I remember once going back from a conference ground to the airport in Durban, South Africa and a couple that I was riding with—sweet, sweet people—and the conversation drifted over into their son who was trying to start a business and having a hard time with it and I said to them, “Are you praying for the business?” Well, they were shocked! They thought you should not pray for anything that you wanted and needed that this would somehow not be pleasing to God. It is interesting to see how people will try to avoid this central tension that comes up and a lot of rationalizations about it. Now, I don’t object to contemplative prayer or centering or any of that, as long as you don’t think that was prayer because if you do, you will miss prayer and that’s a serious omission but you do find a lot of people who think that that’s’ prayer—that it’s a kind of mental attitude that you cultivate or something of that sort. Now you need some mental attitudes so that statement of Paul in Philippians 4; “Be anxious for nothing but in everything with prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known unto God”—that’s a good balance because if you don’t’ have anything to be thankful for, probably prayer is going to be a hard assignment at best. [7:07]
We also need to take seriously Paul’s instruction to “pray without ceasing” and I think we can be helped with that if we form the habit of learning to consciously involve God in each thing we are doing. That, I think is a very profitable way of living and praying and you can form that habit and make sense of it and use it to really good result. Laubach’s method was to train himself to think of God in some way every minute, and I believe you will find it has tremendous benefit also. It’s not particularly praying but it can be interwoven with praying and I think that was Frank’s intent was to bring God before the mind every moment so that whatever He was involved in, He would be invoking God’s action and present in that activity and that is a wonderful thing and we can learn that. Again, you don’t get legalistic about it and his presentation of learning this is very good and he just says, “You know, it’s hard and some days you won’t make it very much but it will improve and then he talks about the effects of learning to do that on everything else that he was doing. It’s a beautiful, beautiful picture and that is in his little piece called, “Letters From A Modern Mystic,” and it is systematized in the “Game with Minutes.” Both of these are very short and if you don’t know them, I encourage you to get to know them because they will help you deal with this issue of praying without ceasing. But I think we can form the habit of constant invocation and we can learn to use the things we are doing as the occasion of praying and I think that is really very powerful. It doesn’t take the place of specific times of prayer for specific things and again, people have a way of slipping away from that because that seems to be the part that is most threatening to people and partly because they can’t conceptualize it theologically and they run into these things—like, “Well, does not God already know?” More problematic still, “Isn’t God going to do whatever He’s going to do anyway?” That’s challenging to many people’s thinking and to some brands of theology, the idea that God would do something He was not going to do because you asked Him.
Now, that a big one, okay and you need to work that through because if you think that He doesn’t ever change what He is going to do one way or the other, you have really redefined the whole idea of fellowship with God. So, I encourage you to think that out and try to work it through so that it does make sense to you. You need to come to a healthy understanding that your prayers make a difference in what happens in this world; and if you don’t, then prayer will sort of turn into spiritual “happy hour” and you will think it does you some good but it doesn’t do anything else any good. [11:20]
So, I have right at the bottom there of page 90: “For success in your own ministerial undertakings, focus on exactly what you want to happen in your services, in your life, in your church or community. Specificity is crucial.” That’s true in personal relations generally. You can sing, “I love you truly, truly dear,” but it had better come down to something specific or it will go nowhere. Specificity is important in prayer. It’s also important because if you are not specific, you probably will not be able to tell if your prayer is answered or not. Something might happen and this is one of Satan’s primary ways of shutting down prayer is to get you to say, “Oh well, it was just a coincidence.” There are various ways of responding to that that are profitable.—George Buttricks’ old book on prayer and he was a great minister and he said, “Well, I observe that when I pray, coincidences happen.” And, that’s if you watch, you see that. I guarantee you that you will. But, if you start explaining your answers to prayers too often in terms of coincidences, I think you will find that sort of God backs out of it and says, “If you like coincidences, okay, you can have that and if you would like an interactive life of prayer with me, let’s get out of the coincidence business. It’s really important. [13:28]
Now, enlist others in the prayer cause on a regular basis if you are leading a work or pastoring or just teaching something. You need to have people praying for you on a regular basis and I just encourage you, “Don’t go forward with your work unless you have some people praying for you.” One of the many blessings of my wife to my life is that she has circle of friends and they pray for me and I think it makes a huge amount of difference to what actually comes out at the end of the pipe. [14:18]
And, then stick with it. Prayer must be something that you stand there like the man saying, “I need a loaf of bread or three loaves.” Don’t dive bomb with prayers. Many people buzz in and drop the bomb and get out and don’t even stay around long enough to see if anything happened. You want to stay with it. You stay in the posture of prayer. Don’t quit. Of course, if you find something better to do, you can do that but I would encourage you to just stay there and not quit. So, that’s quite important, I think.
Now, you must practice prayer if it is to serve as a discipline, but if you can—if you are going to be able to practice it, it must make sense and for most people, frankly, it does not make sense. Their theology prevents it and other things. So, I do believe that we have to work through the theological issues and the scriptural issues and we spent some time talking about that before.
On page 185 of The Spirit of the Disciplines, I include a wonderful description by Otto Hardman of how the one immersed in prayer then meets the world with its stupid policies, its grasping for privilege and security, its suspicions, its ingratitude and resistance to good. Here’s what he said: “Continuing instant in prayer—and when you see that phrase, you know he’s a Methodist—after the conclusion of each period of definite communication with God, continuing instant in prayer, the person will set himself to undertake every legitimate risk.” This is one of the things you see that living in prayer does. “To do the right without fear of consequences. To embrace in loving purpose those who are opposed to Him no less than those who are in agreement with Him in the attempt to realize the vision and to exercise the sympathy with which prayer has endowed Him. The many groups into which his fellows are divided will be seen by Him in the light of the whole and He will ever strive to bridge gulfs and to assist in the realization of that living unity which is experienced by Him in anticipation when in His moments of in tensest prayer, he is caught up to God and filled with the joy of union, economics, social, political, national and racial antagonisms are waiting for the soul solution of the deadlock which they present.” There is not other way. [17:36]
And so not just praying for people but praying with people and that’s a shift you may want to work on. I don’t know where you are on that but sometimes if people—someone asks us to pray for them—it’s best to say, “OK, let’s pray right now.” Praying with people proves to have more power than praying for them.
Now, on 91, again, I give here a study outline, “Why Prayer and how it Works—Making Sense of a Life of Prayer.” That’s for you to use any way you might wish and I have tried to go through here and make very concise points about prayer and why there is such an arrangement, especially the emphasis upon freedom and significance at the bottom of 91, top of 92, I say, “God’s intent to balance power with freedom is the explanation of this very strange prayer arrangement at the very heart of the universe. This is why there is such a thing as prayer.” Well, I have some other things there but I want to get on with it. [19:00]
So, let me look at a couple more things and in particular on page 103— Service as a discipline. Now, service of course is a service also. It’s a good thing and right but we need to understand what it is as a discipline and I say here on 103, Service—the discipline is to engage ourselves for the good of others with no regard to what our reward will be. Now, that’s something we can choose to do and learn how to do that and you have the scriptural passages here—Philippians 2 obviously—Jesus, in the form of God did not think there was anything wrong with that but He abandoned it and He took on Himself the form of a servant and one of the most touching phrases in the scripture to me is that statement—“He made himself of no reputation.” Now, you think about that…mmmmm—no reputation. Now, Paul did the same thing and that is a posture that we learn and Jesus teaches in Matthew, here in the passages referred to about “the one who is greatest would be servant of all.” Now, that’s not a technique for being great and servant hood is not a technique for leadership. You hear a lot of talk about Servant Leadership; well, it’s a good idea but it’s often presented as if it were a technique of leadership or greatness and I think that misses its point: and that actually it won’t work if you are trying to use it in that way. Servant hood or being a servant does enable us to love effectively, frees us from self-obsession, gives vast peace; you no longer worry about being left out or not adequately respected and things of that sort which people spend so much time on. Around USC, especially in the administrative offices, you have people who are worried that someone else has a thicker carpet than they do. [21:47]
So, serving is a way of forgiving and of loving enemies. If there is some problem of forgiveness, one of the best ways to make progress with that is to serve the person that has been offended or that has offended you. Service breaks deadlocks like that. You want to love your enemies. How do you love your enemies? Serve them. That doesn’t mean to do what they want; sometimes, our main service for someone is to do what they don’t want because what they want may not be right and to love them would not be to give them that: and the meaning of Romans 12:20&21 about “heaping coals of fire on somebody’s head,” I don’t think that’s meant to be punishing them but to give them an internal incentive to re-think their course of action and to think better of what they are doing. [23:06]
Well, I give you a reference here to F. B. Meyer—it’s a wonderful story.
- B. Meyer was an established minister in London when Spurgeon, the young, green upstart came to town but Spurgeon of course was a remarkable speaker and people flocked to him and his sermons were printed in Monday’s paper and so, Meyer had to deal with that and he dealt with it by praying for Spurgeon’s success. His own church grew from the effects of Spurgeon’s powerful ministry.
I mention here Jack Hayford and First Baptist Church-Van Nuys. When Jack took the little church on Sherman Way, it was practically nothing and up the street was this big building, First Baptist Church-Van Nuys; and the Lord told Jack to pray for them and that’ s an illustration of what—in Philippians 2 is called, “consider others better than yourself.” Now, I don’t think it means you are to falsify your imagination or your thinking but I think it means that we should act favorably toward others and not just ourselves. So, you probably know now that the First Baptist Church-Van Nuys is where Church on the Way now holds its second meeting on Sunday—and that’s a deep and complicated story—but the spirit in which Jack responded to that situation I think is like F. B. Meyer—very instructive and I would encourage you to define your parish and serve other ministries in your area—rightly understood, the most important part of your ministry is to other ministers and the idea of the Pope as the servant of the servants of God is not a bad idea though it doesn’t look much like that if you kind of look at it from the outside but you know, ritual counts for something and I think that some Popes have actually approached it in that way. [25:39]
Well, very quickly, on page 104—Fellowship-to be with others. That is simply it but especially in common enterprise of worship, learning and service. Fellowship, when it is really a matter of people being together is one of the great disciplines for the spiritual life and you do see that in the case of things like the twelve apostles and of course, there were some problems there, but problems are the sandpaper which smoothes out the fellowship and you accept that and you go with it, but you do have to be called to a fellowship much deeper than what we normally call fellowship today. In particular, fellowship should involve the acceptance of people of all kinds and including the ones you don’t particularly like. I refer here to the second of the Screwtape Letters where Screw tape is commenting on this young convert going to church and how weird the church looks and you might want to look at that some because you know, if you make your church service to “slick” and keep all the wrong kinds of people out, you don’t have the necessary sandpaper. So, we need to think deeply about how we have fellowship at church and perhaps, we need to look more deeply into how that works and I am pretty sure it isn’t just a matter of turning at a certain point and shaking a hand and saying, “God loves you and so do I” or something of that sort. Fellowship is deep. Intimacy is a matter of shared life and fellowship in the body of Christ goes right to the foundations of our life. [27:58]
Now the Methodist history does a lot to help us understand how deep that is. I can’t go over all of this but I need to talk a little bit about it. Wesley here tells the story of how the Methodist Societies arose and where the general rules for the societies—how they came into being and he talks about how eight or ten people—this is on page 105—came together and they desired that “I should spend some time with them in prayer and advice and advise them how to flee from the wrath to come.” That’s the vision, okay? Flee from the wrath to come and he didn’t have to argue them into that. That’s one of the problems with the book on discipleship that I referred to over here now if you want to look at it. It doesn’t have a vision and what it does is it starts basically with means and the means are something like the societies and bands and classes of the Wesleyan tradition and as you read down this and you see the rules, you are going to see that it was heavily legalistic and had some things on it that you might not think to put on a rule that you are are making today. On the other hand, that may mean, we should consider it more seriously. [29:51]
So, there is a description here about why they meet under number 3 there on the left hand column of 105. The leader was to see to it that they got into things that were important and he was to see to each person in his class once a week in order, at least to inquire how their soul’s prosper, to advise, reprove, comfort and exhort as occasion might require, to receive what they were willing to give but Wesley thought everyone should give—at least a penny. He even instructed the leaders that if someone didn’t have a penny, they would put a penny in for them. Then they could adjust that later. Giving was absolutely essential and a penny in those days was worth something. To meet the ministers and the stewards of the society—the leader of the class would do that—to inform the minister of any that were sick and or that walked disorderly or will not be reproved to pay to the stewards what they have received from their several classes to show their account of what each person had contributed. So, you see, there is a lot of bookkeeping in that so there is only one condition required of those who desire admission to these societies; namely a desire to flee from the wrath to come and be saved from their sins. Those were different things. Being saved from your sin was a matter of victory over sins and being able to leave them aside. And now he gives you a long list here and you can look at it if you want to see the sorts of things that were included: borrowing for example, no fighting, not to give or take things on interest—that’s at the top of the right hand column there on 105. They were not to engage in avoiding taxes and positively they were to be involved in the public worship of God regularly, the ministry of the word, Supper of the Lord and so on. [32:28]
OK; well, now, then he had something called the Band Societies and these are discussed on page 106 of your notebook—little companies. Obviously, what we might call “small group ministry” but when you look at the depth at which they worked with one another, you see that this is probably not something that could be incorporated in small groups, as we know them now. [33:04]
So, just to briefly pull it together, look on page 107—left hand side of that where he talks about the “Rules of the Bank Societies.” So, you have some procedurals things—what they were to do when they met and then you had one person who was to speak his own mind and then ask the rest in order and they would be asked what he called “searching questions;” you have a list of those on the left and the right hand side. “Have you the forgiveness of your sins? Have you peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ? Have you the witness of God’s spirit with your spirit?” Now, of course, Wesley and others taught about what that meant so it wasn’t just thrown out in a vacuum. “Is the love of God shed abroad in your heart? Has no sin, inward or outward, dominion over you?” Notice it doesn’t exactly ask, “Have you committed these?” That comes in but does say “sin have dominion over you?” “Can you defeat it? Do you desire to be told of your faults?” You had to have that to be in the Band. “Do you desire to be told of all your faults? And that plain and home?” In other words, without “mincing words.” “Do you want that?” And, not content with that, top of the next page, “Do you desire that every one of us should tell you from time to time whatsoever is in his heart concerning you? Consider, do you desire we should tell you whatever we think, whatever we fear, whatever we hear concerning you?” [35:33]
Well, you can see this is digging pretty deep and that goes on and you have some more rules at the bottom of the right hand side of 107. “Carefully abstain from doing evil, in particular neither buy nor sell anything on the Lord’s day, to taste no spirituous liqueur, no dram of any kind unless prescribed by a physician, to be, at a word both in buying and selling,”—in other words, don’t mislead in any way. “To pawn nothing”—now, that’s an interesting one isn’t it—“to pawn nothing.”—no, not to save a life.” Well, I just wanted to give you an impression that does continue on the next page—108 but I won’t carry on with that. Now, why am I doing that?—To indicate how fellowship might be thought of—this is serious business and this results in intimacy—the intermingling of lives. There is no distance here—I mean, you are right up against. [36:57]
I give you a sheet here—we may come back and talk a little bit about Renovare later if we have time but on page 109, just a little statement about Renovare and it is a small group program. It doesn’t require a church fellowship. You could have one at the office or some place else or just in your community but of course the assumption is I think that it would normally be within a church fellowship.
Renovare arose at a time when the church was really languishing in a kind of indifference to spiritual things and so, this is a program that is largely formed around Methodist ideas, frankly because Richard Foster and Jim Smith, who is probably the foremost authority on these kinds of things Methodist worked out the program and so, it is much easier on the ego than the Methodist program. Not as penetrating but it does provide an opportunity for people who wish to go deeper, to come together and meet once a week and talk about what God is doing in their lives and express a concern and possibly also what they are going to do next week, what they would do in some important dimension of the spiritual life and then come back and talk about that and sometimes nothing happens. Sometimes something happens. Sometimes something other than they had in mind and they share that. So, that’s a little lighter version of fellowship but actually it proved to be tremendously helpful to a lot of people; partly because there really wasn’t anything else going and this program allowed them to identify with something with a group without sort of going “head over heels” to get in and I always encouraged them not to limit it to professing Christians but to think of it as a way of including people who might become followers of Christ if they were given a chance to know what that involved. [39:50]
OK; well, just to mention of confession and submission—these are on page 110 & 111. Confession is actually an extremely important spiritual discipline. It breaks the dam in many peoples’ lives even in a community. I mention here on page 110: Jonathan Goforth’s book, By My Spirit, which is a story of powerful revivals in China and in Korea. They eventually spread to India I think but they always involved confession. Confession is quite important in our lives because it allows us to lay down the burden of pretense and hypocrisy and that always separates you from other people and makes fellowship impossible. You can’t have fellowship unless there is a laying down of pretense and things that separate us from one another and confession is a way of laying that down. Many people will tell you how powerful it has been in their lives and I can certainly say that for myself. Relief from hypocrisy, training in trusting God rather than in our manipulations of our appearance to others—good-bye to pride and good riddance. Confession proves not to be just an act. I understand that in the sacramental traditions, this can be treated as an act but confession in the open fellowship of the Christian community of disciples is a spirit of openness and transparency—a way of living one’s life together with others and Jesus had some pretty heavy things to say about hiding. He simply said, “You know everything that is hidden is going to be revealed.” Can we afford that? Well, it’s going to be hard on us if we have been building our lives around pretense and not owning up to what we’ve actually done and what we are, but still, if you have experienced this, you know what an incredible relief it is and how it reconfigures our relationships to others. [43:02]
It helps with humility. Anyone who wants to be humble, I can tell them how to do it in at least a few steps and one is: Don’t pretend. Sometimes that’s enough in itself. If you want to be humble, don’t pretend anything. Don’t put on a happy face and so on unless you are happy and then if that’s not enough: Don’t presume. Don’t presume that you deserve better than you’ve gotten and so forth and so on or don’t presume that people will respond to you in particular ways usually that are good. And then finally: Don’t push. Don’t try to make things happen and trust God to bring to you what is good for you and you will find yourself advancing in humility with great strides. Of course, humility is primarily “depending on God.” Peter’s word in 1 Peter 5—I think it’s 7—“Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God that when the time is right, He will lift you up” and humility is basically depending on God, but you see, if you confess, you are probably going to have to depend on God. People are going to know what you are and what you ‘ve done and they may not want to follow you, trust you, think well of you, so you have to leave yourself in the hands of God. [45:03]
Now, I don’t think we should confess everything to everybody; that gets more into the domain of trying to prove something but we do need to be open especially with a few close friends. Pastors generally have a bigger difficulty that usual with confession because they are in a position where they think that they have to sustain an appearance. So, we need to recognize what this is. I say on the last point here on the page, “We learn to allow others to confess to us.” That doesn’t have to happen by a big buildup of some sort but you learn to observe when people need to unburden themselves and you can, in a gentle way, receive their confession and indeed, in the fellowship of Christ, I think confession would be a natural occurrence if the fellowship were at the right level. James talks about “confessing your sins one to another and praying for one another that you should be healed” and associates healing with confession and fellowship and I think we should respect that and try to come to understand how it works and teach those that we are guiding and leading about confession both in speaking and hearing. [46:54]
Well, there is just one other discipline here that I wanted to say something about before moving on and that is submission. This discipline is simply doing what others think best but it is tied very deeply into pride and stiffness of will, stubbornness and I say here I think it totally eliminates self promotion. It does not mean that we assign our own responsibility to do what is right to others if it is an issue of what is right, I think there our obligation is to stand by what is right as we see it but to stand by it in humility and we don’t want to be hung up on our own judgment as such. The fact that I think something is right is of course worthy of consideration but I need to hear others and perhaps more often than not, it will concern something where it’s not an issue of what is right but an issue of maybe what is best to do. We can easily get hung up on our judgments and trying to maintain it and so, the teaching of the New Testament has many places where it takes up this issue. I think Galatians 6:1-5 is one of the clearest and most helpful teachings on that. We might look at that a moment. Galatians 6:1-5—and this is really a teaching about fellowship and maybe confession as well, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens—and this is one of the ways that we would do that—and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” Hearing a confession is often one of the most loving things you can do for people and also submission in a situation where you have a disagreement and someone simply says, “Well, let’s do it your way.” OK; again, as long as nothing of principle is compromised and the only issue is “my will.” “Let each one examine his own work and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each shall bear his own load.” That’s one of those curious places where you have to think about what looks like some kind of contradiction: “bearing one another’s burdens and bearing your own burden.” But I think once you understand the spirit of fellowship of being together in confession and submission, you understand that burdens can be thought of as something that others bear with you and that you bear alone. That certainly helps with the weight of the burdens. [50:54]
This is an application of the cross in our life. The cross is crossing our will, not having to have our way and I think that is the main element in submission. We don’t have to have our way but we need to be able to stand with Christ at the cross to help us do that. Once we stand there, then that frees us from the burden of having our own way and of being “all wise in our own eyes.” It allows us to benefit from counsel and many people can’t do that because they are so stuck on their own ideas and having their own way that they can’t listen to others.
Mutual submission is actually talking about that. Think of how many times among Christians you have issues that really break over into harmful situations simply because one or more people are not willing to say, “Ok, have it your way” and once we have abandoned ourselves in the practice of submission, then it’s easier to do that and of course, that affects families and communities and all sorts of situations.
Now, the rule that Paul is teaching in Colossians 3 for example and in Ephesians is not “one way.” And in general, I think we should say, when talking about submission is that “it is never one way.” And so Paul says in Colossians, “Submit one to another in the fear of the Lord,” and that’s perfectly good and safe. When people have their own will out of the way and are wiling to look at what is right and what is good and make a decision, that allows someone else to determine what is best to do. [53:28]
On page 112, I give this little passage from Thomas a Kempis – Four Things Bringing Great Peace and it presents the Lord talking to the person’s son, “Now shall I teach thee the way of Peace and a very liberty, Lord do as thou sayeth for that is agreeable to me to hear. “ So, now he gives him four things: (1) rather to do the will of another than thine own; (2) choose rather to have less than more—and of course, the more and less thing is involved in so many arguments and conflicts where self-will asserts itself; (3) seek ever the lower place than to be under all and finally; (4) desire ever to pray that the will of God be all and holy done. Lo, such a man enters into the boundaries, coasts of peace and quiet. Now, you know, you look at that and you realize then what a difference that would make in personal relationships—raising children, having a family, neighbors and so on—totally change the tone of the relationships and would then open the way for love to dominate. [55:20]
OK; I’m going to stop there on 113; there is a list of other things to look at and there’s no such thing as a complete list of disciplines and I list a few things there that might help. We don’t want to forget about attendance on church services but then we want to try to think about why that is a discipline and what it accomplishes. I have given you some remarkable prayers attached to this by a Serbian bishop and by Sir Thomas Moore but as I say, I don’t think we can take time for that but we now do you have any questions or comments? [56:16]
Q: What do you think about a pastor in his sermons having a spirit of openness?
A: I think it can be used well on occasion. I would not in general recommend it without knowing the particular circumstances. It would depend on what was being confessed and who was there to hear it. So, I would say, I know in fact it can be very powerful. It can be but I would encourage people to truly try to be guided by the Spirit in whether or not they do that but it can be very well used. I must say that I have done it myself on occasion with good affect but I would not recommend it as a general practice. I think ordinarily we need a smaller audience than that but on the other hand, I’ve found in my own case that just abandoning myself to God in that was very freeing for me and touched the people deeply. [57:24]
Q: What is the relationship of examen to a professional?
A: Oh; well, examen helps you know what you need to confess. Examen as I understand is a private practice in which you come by weighing your actions and your deeds to think correctly about whether or not they were good or bad and if so, why or why not? So, now I can imagine someone who is practicing examen and they decide that they need to confess some things that they have discovered. I think confession is something you have to be very sensitive to—the context and what it’s going to mean to the people involved but examen would be, I think well regarded as a preliminary to confession. [58:17]
All right, well, let me leave the particular disciplines at that; there is so much more to be said but we don’t have the time for it.
Now, the overall effect of disciplines is very powerful. On page 191 of The Spirit of the Disciplines, I say, “Which disciplines must be central to our lives will be determined by the chief sins of commission or omission that entice or threaten us from day to day. Arrogance, envy, wrath, sloth, avarice, gluttony, lasciviousness—the seven “deadly” sins of theological and literary history—along with many others are not phantoms or jokes, as they tend to be treated today, but hard-bitten realities whose dreadful effects can be viewed hour by hour. They call for comparable hard-nosed, tough response on our part, supported of course by infinite grace.” So, if we find that we are actually proud or arrogant, then we have to take steps against that and for example, service confession, sometimes just solitude and silence can help us deal with pride and undercut the perception of ourselves and others that underlies pride. Help us to see better what is significant and what is insignificant and I think that the list of disciplines that we have gone through provides just such a hard-nosed response. The activities that we have mentioned and others that are useful and I insist there is no complete list of disciplines but just the ones we’ve looked at will I think be more than adequate to help us receive the full Christ life and become the kind of person that should emerge in the following of Him. Other disciplines can be added but these are the foundational ones I suggest. That’s open to experience by the individual. If practiced faithfully, they will guide us aright no matter what other disciplines we may add. And the result of that will be the reordering of our lives. [1:01:31]
I like to use a simple little diagram of this. Ordinary persons as a result of what they have experiences and practiced [shows GOD’S DESIGN diagram] have an Improper Subordination. Their BODY is running their life in a social setting and their BODY is controlling their SOUL. The SOUL is the fundamental organizing principle of the whole life and the person will have than organized around the BODY. The SOUL will be running their SPIRIT or will and then their SPIRIT will be attempting to manage GOD and that is what, in the case of very many people, their religion amounts to is trying to manage GOD. So, we want to get out of that and turn it around and the disciplines help you do that. If you get a Proper Subordination, GOD is running everything and your WILL is tied to GOD, surrendered to GOD and relating Him back to us and then utilizing the resources of GOD. Our SOUL is restructured so that now, everything in our thinking, our feeling and so on, is in order and our BODY is the servant of righteousness. [1:02:54]
So, you get two different orders here and the one on the left is what St. Thomas and St. Augustine called, “the order that is in beatitude” or “blessedness.” Now, of course, LOVE is the principle of all of this. Love of God, first of all; that means, willing what He is willing and in the course of that, love of those around us—our neighbors, the people that are under the influence or sway of our WILLS. That’s the order that is in “beatitude;” they are in fact subordinate to these other things. These are the main stops on the train to “blessedness” but obviously, in order to subordinate the Spirit to God, the MIND and the emotions are going to have to be involved in that and that would be the main place I think but then once the SPIRIT is subordinated to GOD, then the MIND and the emotions will have to come into play into bringing the LAW which renews the SOUL into life and that would be into their BODY as well. [1:04:33]
So, the mind and the emotions, the thoughts and the emotions are fundamental but those are a part of what goes into making that work but once you have that established and you see the subordination that the WILL is subordinate to GOD, the SOUL is subordinate to WILL, BODY subordinate to SOUL. That’s the working reality of this order.
Now, if you look at the one on the right, I think you would see how disordered ordinary life is. Putting the BODY first in so many ways—not just trying to stay alive but also using it as a source of power and pleasure and then the SOUL is devoted to that and that perverts the SPIRIT or the WILL and now in there somewhere is the perversion of reason also. But the worst part is I think how God winds up being treated as an idol; that is something that is for my benefit. [1:05:39]
Well, just one other thing here to help give us the picture. We are told that “perfect love casts out fear” and I tried to give a picture of what that means—the Mature Life of Light, Of Love, Of Truth, and Power—well, that is an overall structure where LOVE comes to us from GOD and goes back from us to GOD. “We love Him because He first loved us” and then through GOD to OTHERS and from OTHERS back to US to form a community of love in which we live and die. So, that’s just probably a silly way of trying to represent this idea that perfect love casts out fear. Now, once we are out of fear, then we can stand to live in the truth and living in the truth, we can be trusted with power and just a suggested way of trying to fill in the blanks.
OK; let’s take a little break and come back in about 10 minutes or so and then I want to change the subject a bit.