Holy Week: contemplative and charismatic

The theme of our Holy Week was The Gethsemane Journey. Can the Pentecostal and contemplative blend? Why not? Although  the practices of the Pentecostal and the contemplative seem to be incompatible opposites they actually enrich and deepen each other! I saw this in our experience of Holy Week 2017. I handed the planning to our young pastoral staff: Ethel, Tom and Sarah. I told them the parameters was that we share with the church different practices of prayer both contemplative and charismatic. This was what they came up with.

Monday: Lectio Divina

Tuesday: Praying the Psalms

Wednesday: Prophetic prayer

Thursday: Intercessory prayer

Each evening would begin with time for people to be still and wait on God in silence with background instrumentals played over the speakers. Then there would be brief explanations of the prayer practice we would be doing. Followed by an hour for people to actually enter into the practice of prayer. The last segment would be a partaking of Holy Communion.

The worship hall would be made conducive with dim lights, devotional  instrumental music (except of the last evening when we had a live band), and the hall would be cleared of the usual auditorium seating so people could sit anywhere on the floor or chairs along the edges.

Personally I enjoyed each and every evening of Holy Week. It was no chore. The Lord was present each night to impart different insights and experiences. The first night a Scripture portion lighted up and shifted my posture towards a ministry matter. The second night I felt I was crying out to the Lord on behalf of the sick. The third night, I composed and sent prophetic prayers and words to three friends. The last night, I had to facilitate the intercession evening. However I enjoyed the soaking session with the live worship band. Whether contemplative or charismatic practices are used the common element is the presence and power of God.

Some of the participants who attended the Holy Week wrote about their experiences in this article in our church website: Holy Week: The Gethsemane Journey.

The whole Lent and Holy Week can possibly be a seasonal “curriculum” for personal and church renewal. How does your church use this season for God’s glory? Share with the readers what your church has done.

Lent: Prayer of the Inward Journey

The inward journey is like caving: a guide is a must.

A relevant prayer for Lent season. You can call it the soul searching prayer. Or better still I would call it the prayer of inward journey.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts, And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!  (Psalm 139:23,24 ESV)

This is a well known and beloved Psalm. In verses 1-6, shows us that God knows all; and verses 7-12 tells us God is everywhere; and 13-18 tells us God is our loving and wise Creator. In verses 19-22 the Psalmist prays against those who rise up against such a wonderful God. He hates them and prays for them to experience the worst! Then suddenly in verse23,24 his tone changes and he prays that famous prayer, Search me O God…. Its like he is praying, Lord I don’t want to be like these guys who rise up and fight against Your love and power. See if there is even a tiny bit of them in me, for I want to be rid of that and be changed by your power. Instead please lead me to the everlasting path instead of the path that leads to grief.

This is indeed a prayer we all need to use when we feel disturbed, upset or hurt. When we lost our peace and feel out of sorts and in disequilibrium, we can seek God’s help in understanding what He wants to show us about ourselves and Himself.

Its a prayer that sends me inwards to look at my heart, my thoughts, and even “any grievous way” in me. The Hebrew for “grievous” denotes forced labour, or the fruit of sorrow, bondage and misery it brings. This inward journey can be daunting and intimidating.

That’s why it has to be a guided tour. The Psalmist invites God to be his guide on this inward journey. I wouldn’t go on this journey alone. It is fraught with the dangers of discouragement, self-hatred and condemnation. However with this God who loves me, has forgiven me, and dealt forever with all my sins past present and future, I have no fear, only assurance and peace that this journey will heal and help me, not harm me.

Lastly, its a blessed journey because there are many blessings. One blessing is increased self-knowledge. Another blessing is knowing which areas of weakness Satan will seek to tempt me. I can watch and pray at those particular weak areas in my defence.

 

Beyond regular habits of prayer and Bible reading

QT

We are creatures of habit and this can be used to great advantage for the cultivation of a spiritual life. Regular habits of silence, solitude, examen, lectio divina and journaling have been established in my life over the last few years. This helps me greatly, but I want more.

More recently, I have been listening through the whole Bible online. I am now listening to audio readings of Exodus and Mark at the YouVersion Bible app. I am encouraged that it is more viable than I thought possible. Going through the Bible is a challenge for me. Now I have even gone through the complex book of Job which to me is quite an achievement. This helps me greatly but I want more.

There were several moments in recent weeks when I felt a holy discontent. Where it sprang from I cannot remember. They were invitations from a heavenly source. An invitation to go beyond routines and habits as important as these were. An invitation to love God with first love, with desire, passion, enthusiasm, and emotions. An invitation to love God with more than just my intellect and will.

We are to live out our spirituality by faith without depending heavily on our emotions. However, if will and mind set on following God can be accompanied by strong love and passion for my Lord in this long journey called life, why not? Having a love relationship devoid of emotions all my life is not my idea of a real relationship. God did not create emotions, desires and passions in me only to want it set aside when He relates to me. He wants my soul and desires to want Him and enthrone Him too.

I now pray more often for this grace: “Lord grant me a passionate love for You. I want to be able to love You with all my mind… AND emotions AND passion AND desires. Help me return to the first love.”

I know I cannot manufacture this. It’s not sustainable. It has to be a gift. A grace. So I ask in faith and wait patiently for Him to stir my affections as I seek Him during Lent.

Jesus said, “The first in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ (Mark 12:29,30 The Message)