Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Prayer and Action: The Early Church

Two Wednesdays ago, the UW Episcopal community explored and discussed the life and witness of Dorothy Day. Tonight, we're looking at themes related to prayer, love, and action, from the very early church. Here's the very loose outline.

Prayer and Action: the Early Church
(excerpts from To Pray and to Love, Roberta C. Bondi)

On Prayer

If a [person’s] deeds are not in harmony with his [or her] prayer, [that person] labors in vain. The brother said, ‘What is this harmony between practice and prayer?’ The old man said, ‘We should no longer do those things against which we pray.’ Abba Moses

Bondi: “Prayer is for you. Prayer is not a test of your character, an endurance contest, or a heroic task set before you.” Prayer is God’s gift for and in you.

How do you think about prayer? What is your prayer life like?

On Beginning

“A man had a plot of land. And through his carelessness brambles sprang up and it became a wilderness of thistles and thorns. Then he decided to cultivate it. So he said to his son: ‘Go and clear that ground.’ So the son went and cleared it, and saw that the thistles and thorns had multiplied…He said: ‘How much time shall I need to clear and weed all this?’ And he lay on the ground and went to sleep. He did this day after day. Later his father came to see what he had done, and found him doing nothing. When his father asked him about it, the son replied that the job looked so bad that he could never make himself begin. His father replied, ‘Son, if you had cleared each day the area on which you lay down, your work would have advanced slowly and you would not have lost heart.’ So the lad did what his father said, and in a short time the plot was cultivated.”

What things, tasks, realities in life make it tempting to lose heart?
When have you found unexpected life in simple obedience toward an unpromising or daunting task?
What would a cultivated prayer-plot look like in your life?

“Do a little work and do not faint, and God will give you grace.”

Scripture

“The nature of water is soft, that of stone is hard; but if a bottle is hung above the stone, allowing the water to fall drop by drop, it wears away the stone. So it is with the word of God; it is soft and our hearts are hard, but the [person] who hears the word of God often opens his [or her] heart to the fear of God.”

When do you encounter Scripture? Do you ever intentionally seek images from Scripture to put in conversation with your own life?

patterns of love

“Whoever hammers a lump of iron, first decides what he is going to make of it, a scythe, a sword, or an axe. Even so we ought to make up our minds what kind of virtue we want to forge or we labor in vain.” Anthony

Bondi: “In order to grow in love, Christians must make choices about what kinds of patterns of love they want to grow into.”

What kinds of choices have you made? Whose own patterns of love helped shape your own?

The role of community

“The monks were convinced…that the first help they could give toward the reconciliation of the world was learning to live in and model love in their own communities. At the same time they did not believe that they would be able to act in love toward those outside their own communities if they did not first begin to love one another.”

What patterns of love can communities of faith uniquely facilitate?

Vulnerability and Interdependence

Bondi: “Learning to receive gifts is as much of a Christians discipline of love as that of giving (p107). Luke 14:7-14: We come to the table because the Lord extends hospitality to us.

“If it is my duty to get something done, I prefer it to be done with my neighbor’s advice, even if I do not agree with him and it goes wrong, rather than to be guided by my own opinion and have it turn out right.” Dorotheos of Gaza

What is it like, for you, to need help? What are obstacles to asking for help? When was help from another life-giving for you?

Forgiveness

“Abba Poemen … said about Abba Isidore that whoever he addressed the brothers in church he said only one thing, “Forgive your brother, so that you also may be forgiven.”

Most of us are too polite to intentionally wound people in ways that warrant forgiveness (we think); where are some places for forgiveness in your life?

Well Being

Bondi: “Wanting another’s well-being is not necessarily wanting what he or she wants. It is wanting another to be able to live in the love God created us for.”

What thoughts do you have about the love God created us for? What is your experience of living in the love God created us for?

How Love and Action Shape Prayer

Abba Theodore of Pherme asked Abba Pambo, “Give me a word.” With much difficulty he said to him, “Theodore, go and have pity on all, for through pity, one finds freedom of speech before God.”
How would an honesty without fear transform your prayers tonight?

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