I was cycling to my favourite pavilion at the Chinese Garden. Then it rained. So I went instead to a nearby Indian food stall. It was new. I ordered two roti prata kosong. So there they were: my bike, the roti prata, a vacuum flask full of Chinese tea, and my journal. Took a photo of what I thought was an interesting combination of things. Ate the prata, reflected on my week and wrote my journal. Rest, relish, and remember: the three key words to having a good sabbath. After the rain stopped, I went to the pavilion. And then it rained again. I stayed there an hour, enjoying meditation and the cool weather. Precious times, precious morning.
I was in two church camps this past June. One was my church camp in Bangkok. The other was the Church of the True Light (Anglican) camp held at the JEN Hotel at Puteri Harbour in Johor. I was the guest speaker at the camp and I developed the theme of LISTENING TO GOD. This was the third time I taught on contemplative prayer at different church camps in the last several years. Let me give an outline of some of the sessions:
LISTENING TO GOD IN THE GOSPEL: Church and nationwide revival is great but while we pray and wait for the Spirit’s sovereign move, we need to dig deep wells and tap the living water table that will give us sustainable personal revival. The Trinitarian gospel is often thought of as what we receive only at the beginning of the Christian life. We actually need the gospel message all our life, throughout our faith journey. It is the gospel message that gives life and continually revives us.
LISTENING TO GOD IN THE SCRIPTURES: The word of God wedded to the Spirit is what gives us life and revives us. We do this by listening to God in ALL of scriptures, and in SOME of scriptures. The four movements of the classical lectio divina (divine reading) was taught and practised and discussed in groups.
LISTENING TO GOD IN SILENCE & SOLITUDE: God meets and speaks with us when we are alone and silently listen to God. This was the experience of Elijah when he ran in fear and panic from Jezebel. He could not hear God for his body and soul was drained by flight and fear, and his mind was filled with chatter of doubt and visions of death. God used silence and solitude to bring Elijah to a place of inner quiet so that he could again be revived to hear and obey God. This session was followed by a practice of silence and solitude.
LISTENING TO GOD IN DAILY LIFE: The review of the day or examen is a method of prayer which sensitives us to discern God’s presence, activity and communications with us. This session was followed by practice and group discussions.
LISTENING TO GOD IN TIMES OF CHOICE: We make choices, and our choices in turn shapes us. They can lead us away from the first love or towards a greater love of God. We have different choices to make in daily life but there are those impactful choices where more thought, prayer and counsel are needed. How do we do it well? And when we have the peace of God, how do we discern if its a true peace of divine origin or a false peace that comes from the flesh or the enemy?
LISTENING TO GOD IN THE SABBATH: Showed them how the sabbath could be celebrated as salvation and as wisdom, a way of life that God intended for our good and to shape our rhythm of rest, work and prayer. Celebrating sabbath is needed in maintenance of the fire in our hearts.
A SESSION AT A TIME
At the camp, I sort of lived out the day a session at a time. After finishing one session, I would prepare myself physically, spiritually and mentally for the next session until I hit the tape at the finish line. However I am thankful for all the mealtime fellowship with familiar faces (for I had spoken in their church camps a few times over the decades), and the power naps in between. One of the wonderful things about doing church camps is that you get to know the people better and as you do so the message becomes sharper in terms of application and relevance. Thankfully, all my materials had been prepared in advance. However there were still tweaks here and there to improve the material and the powerpoint.
CHURCH OF TRUE LIGHT & PASTOR VINCENT HOON
I admire the Church of the True Light (English congregation) for its giftedness in prophecy and visions. The Lord had sent Rev Vincent Hoon and gifted individuals there and the windows for the wind of the Spirit to infuse the church with the supernatural gifts suddenly swung open.
I got to know Pastor Vincent Hoon in late 1990’s when both of us came alone to the Love Singapore Prayer Summit and ended up sharing a room. We hit it off and have been meeting regularly for the last 20 years for peer mentoring, updating and prayer.
This Anglican church moved in the Spirit and their worship was soaking worship with opportunities for people to express themselves in dance and sharing insights. I was moved, inspired and learned much. The worship also helped me and God’s people get ready for what God had for them in the teaching and prayer workshops. I returned to Singapore soaked in the power of the Spirit.
It shows that learning in the Spirit is mutual edification. We learn together, and we grow together, and we advance together in the faith journey. I trust that those in the camp, whose season it is to dig wells for themselves, now have the tools to do so and I pray they will persevere till they hit the water table! May they enter and enjoy sustainable, personal revival.
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.