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Thursday, April 15, 2010 

Prayer And Spiritual Formation Workshop Part 2

The next morning we started first thing with a short talk on the importance having of a good study Bible. To his credit the presenter held up The Lutheran Study Bible by CPH as a great resource. When the issue of translations came up someone asked what the presenter’s preference was he responded that the NIV is his preferred translation but that he also likes to have his copy of the Message close by. The presenter said “the Word has power so whatever translation you can understand” is the one you should use.

The presenter [4:05] then read Matthew 6:1-8,9;

“1 Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

5“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”


The presenter then said “the appointed text then goes on to verse sixteen, I don’t mean to skip over the Lord’s Prayer, but we’ll try to pick it up at verse sixteen

16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

Everyone will need to keep the fact that the presenter skipped over the Lord’s Prayer in the prayer and spiritual formation workshop on the back burner until post number four as why he skipped over the Lord’s Prayer above and his explanation of why the Apostles developed new prayer forms used (but not listed) in Acts to bring about the Holy Spirit will become essential to understanding what is going on here.

The presenter discussed what he said was the primary disciplines of Lent (the workshop was held during Lent) and said that alms giving, prayer, and fasting were really started by the apostles and are just as important “as we journey with the Lord.” He said that we would be talking about all of these disciplines along with individual confession that he said seems to be returning to the church. He said that these disciplines would “help us with our journeys

We then had a brief discussion on what helps (reunion groups and prayer closets) and what hinders (like various distractions that plague our busy lives) our prayer lives. One of the more unusual statements was when one of the participants said that singing helped her focus a bit and helped her to deal with her distractions. The presenter responded [18:03] with “yes, singing. Sometimes we will have musicians and they bring their guitars and we’ll be singing together, and that really helps and moves us. I don’t know what you do at your contemporary service but I love when they have a time of prayer and praise at the beginning, about twenty minutes of singing, it really does move you into worship and prayer, it’s powerful. Ours, (his congregation) we sing, in the beginning of our normal service, it’s a traditional service, and somehow, the old German Lutheran Hymns just don’t do it for me in getting me into worship. I’m not against them by the way but I need more.” He then followed up with a question his wife asks “does every Lutheran hymn have to sound like Lent?” The group thought her question was hilarious!

After listing on the whiteboard all the helps and distractions the presenter continued with the prepared material [23:00] and told a story a women in Africa who is a powerful healer and preacher who goes out to garbage dumps to heal the deaf so that they can hear the Gospel first and then make sure that the leapers are healed next to show how productive prayer can be. This powerful movement of the Spirit wouldn’t be possible if she hadn’t developed a prayer regiment. He said that circumstances like this is one of the reasons he started looking at ancient prayer forms; to find out how such thing could be accomplished. There will be a lot of material to cover in the next post concerning healing prayers and what role the presenter feels that healing played in the rapid expansion of Christianity and what it means for us today.

We then dived into the Lectio Divina which was defined as “an ancient way of listening to the voice of God” that was lost to the church but has enjoyed rediscovery in modern times. Through this prayer form we were informed that we could read and understand the Scriptures not for information but “formation, which is a heart centered way of experiencing God and our world.” This is what the presenter uses for his formation and was taught such at the Richmond Hill Retreat Center [44:00] which trained a couple of the twelve spiritual directors employed by the SED.

It was explain that the Lectio Divina has four main parts or movements:

1. Silencio (Preparation for sacred reading) We are silent to allow God’s voice to be heard by us. In letting go we shift from control to receptivity, from information to formation, from observation to obedience.
2. Lectio (reading/listening - “sensing”)
3. Meditatio (pondering - “thinking”)
4. Oratio (Invites us to respond from the heart – “feeling”


We had already spent a good deal of time talking about Deut 6:4 saying that the Lord wants us silent to hear him so we didn’t spent much time on the Silencio movement. I won’t bore anyone with the presenter’s story of sometimes looking at the clouds for the purpose of prayer….

The presenter made it clear that not all of these prayer forms are for everybody [46:45]: “again these different prayer forms are not for everybody all the time. It’s kind of life stages to it; at certain life stages certain prayer forms just don’t connect, so, I think what I’m trying to say is that you show your desire to connect to God"

We did spend a goodly amount of time on the Lectio movement were we that should “Choose a passage from Scripture. Read the passage to yourself. Don’t be concerned about the literal meaning. Rather, listen for the word, phrase, or person that catches your attention or touches you [59:00]. Silently focus on that word or phrase. Repeat it a few times. Allow it to sink into your heart and mind.”

The presenter had us put what he was teaching into practice as he read a passage from Luke 5:17-26. If we did what we were instructed we would listen for God speaking to us in silence as we tried to pick out “words or phrases that jumped out at” us when we used our imaginations, feeling, and memories. When the verses had been read three times the majority of the participants said that they did in fact feel God had spoken or revealed something new to them through their silence, feelings, or imaginations. The presenter reassured them that something powerful was happening.

When questioned [1:16:45] on if we can trust what comes from our minds and how we hold what we think might be right up to the doctrines of the church the presenter said this:

“That’s a hazard in our church body because we do place high value on correct interpretation and, and I’m not putting that down, I think that the truth of doctrine of our church and understanding of texts is kind of a foundation upon which we build on. But when go into prayer on a text we’re not sitting there studying our notes first so we get it right. This is not about getting it right. If we believe that the Holy Spirit is in charge here, I think the Holy Spirit the one getting it right for us. He’s uses all our knowledge and background and Scripture and all that but that can be (correct interpretation and doctrines) a tremendous distraction to “am I really understanding it correctly here?”

Everyone understands that if I put something in quotes then that means the presenter said what is in quotes; word for word and in context, dontchya? Just making sure folks...

After telling us that correct interpretation and doctrine might be a hindrance to our spiritual formation the presenter skipped the Contemplatio (resting in the presence of God – “intuitive”) and the Incarnatio (Living a life of service to God’s glory) portion in the participant’s handout and moved to Luther, who we were told, practiced a form of the Lectio Divina. What “form” of the Lectio Divina Luther practiced was never discussed or defined in any historical context.

Nobody questioned the presenter on why Luther left his monastic order if all these prayer forms helped his spiritual formation as they would us. I believe it would be fair to say that most of the members of the class went away with the misconception that they were taught a “form” that the reformer would have approved of. But, the presenter informed us that the Lectio Divina is “a simple process” and should be encouraged.

The presenter told us [1:12:30] that youth were very open to learning new prayer forms and “youth directors could really have fun with this one.

After a short break, a section on using our imagination to insert ourselves into the Biblical narrative so that we might have the Spirit move us in ways we can’t imagine so that Jesus can give us hugs and tells us why He heals particular people, and a short commercial for the presenter’s other profession as holy land tour guide, (he uses these tours he conducts as something of a pilgrimage for his own spiritual formation) the presenter talked a bit concerning using images [2:00:00] from our imagination to pray. He told us that he would sometimes stop his preaching in the middle of his sermon if he didn’t “feel the energy” in the room and had his parish imagine things. He continued [2:14:15] on how he personally prepares for worship using his imagination:

“I will use images that, I, when I look at people, and before I preach. I find it most helpful in mornings before I have to preach I go, I always go through the sanctuary and I touch each pew and I try to imagine the people sitting there and that God would bring them to this place. Because I don’t think it’s an accident that we arrived. I think that God calls us to that place. Maybe it happened on our part but God called us to that place. So I kind of touch each pew and connect with it and it’s a way of, my way of praying through the sanctuary that God would have people hear what they need to hear and not necessarily what I speak.”

He continued:

“Imaging, I think it’s helpful too, for the leaders of the church or certainly the boards of elders to be praying during the worship service. And they can do that right away or they can be in another room praying or I would always that ask my leaders during the sermon especially, I need you to be praying, more than listening because if God is gonna have an effect here its not going with my words it’s gonna be with God the Holy Spirit. So you be praying that God would have an effect on their hearts and minds of people and it will make a difference, a huge difference in terms of your worship.”

This led to a question about anointing prayers and what was the role of anointing prayers during a worship service and could anointing prayers be used, as had been done in the questioner’s former congregation, to anoint particulars seats, pews, or spaces that people, women specifically, sat in. A question was also raised concerning praying for our enemies. The presenter recommended [2:18:00] the following:

“You see, a lot of prayers are changing my heart and not God’s mind. It changes my heart. If you pray for your enemy you gonna treat them not as enemies. That’s why Jesus wanted us to pray for our enemies, so we treat them differently. Small groups, it’s very helpful to always have an empty chair when you form small groups in a church. And pray over that chair. That chair is for someone who doesn’t know Jesus. So you, praying over that chair (and say) “Jesus, fill that chair with someone who doesn’t know you yet so they can sit there. Fill that chair” It’s a really a powerful way to do evangelism”

We concluded the morning session by going over the practice of absolution and confession, a Lutheran practice that was the most historic and recognizably Lutheran practice of the day according to the presenter’s own testimony. The presenter did a fair job in explaining that the practice is not a Roman Catholic only practice but something given to us by Jesus himself. When one of the participants said [2:38:30] that she would never teach her child to confess his sins to a pastor but rather she would tell him to go talk with her spouse a certain slack jawed yokel was heard defending both corporate and private confession and absolution when those with a masters of divinity failed to do so. The presenter ended up saying:

“I wouldn’t want to debate right and wrong because both are right. I would respect where ever each person is at in the room around this issue because it’s not right or wrong, God’s forgiveness is valid what ever way. I would just say that if this is something that might be helpful and if you’d like to experience it. I have found the experience, I don’t do this all the time, but the experience of private confession for me there is a power and I can’t explain it other than I know that the Holy Spirit is there.”

I’m sure it was just a slip of the tongue [2:38:00] when presenter “he or she is the mouthpiece of God” when referring to the pastoral office. Maybe the post on the discussion over lunch will shed some light on what he was thinking...

And then we broke for lunch.

A programming note: in the next post I’ll cover the second half of Saturday’s class. The forth post will be devoted exclusively to the conversation I had with the presenter after he sat down at my table for the lunch break. The reason for this is that not everybody heard the conversation we had at lunch so my thinking is that what was said at our table needs to be dealt with separately.

Prayer And Spiritual Formation Workshop Part 1
Prayer And Spiritual Formation Workshop Part 3
Prayer And Spiritual Formation Workshop Part 4
Prayer And Spiritual Formation Workshop Part 5
Prayer And Spiritual Formation Workshop Part 6
Prayer And Spiritual Formation Workshop Part 7

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Huzzah for the slack-jawed yokel. It's like a Frankenstein-esque wedding of New Age spirituality (especially the touching pews and imagining garbage), Charismatic spirituality (especially the constant talk of feeling presence), with a dash of Lutheran (well, just the confession and absolution bit).

Look, buddy, if you want to be a hippie Pentecostal, be a hippie Pentecostal. But stop trying to be something you're not (namely, a Lutheran).

Frank you are to be commended for sitting through this workshop. I think I would have "popped" within the first hour.

This is definitely eastern mysticism meets Pentecostalism/Charismania.

Thanks for taking the time to write up this report.

"Judas hung himself" comes to mind when I read lectio divino -- I must be listening to PCR too much!

You deserve a standing ovation for attending and taking copious notes!

Gahhh!!!!!!!!

Was this a life-long "Lutheran" presenting, by any chance?

I know you don't write up these post just to drive all of us adult converts to Lutheranism CRAZY, but my blood pressure just skyrocketed again.

By the way, touching each pew in the sanctuary as you pray and leaving an empty chair for an imaginary visitor to your small group is *so* 1990s.

“Was this a life-long "Lutheran" presenting, by any chance?”

Kelly, the presenter is a life long Lutheran and has been a pastor in the LCMS since he graduated from Concordia Seminary back in 67.

“I believe it would be fair to say that most of the members of the class went away with the misconception that they were taught a “form” that the reformer would have approved of.”

That is just your opinion. You have not refuted a Lutheran view of contemplation. Meditation is no exclusive to the New Age movement than folding hands in prayer is to pagan goddess religions.

“When one of the participants said [2:38:30] that she would never teach her child to confess his sins to a pastor...”

Where this women is probably coming from is in reaction to how certain “higher things” clergy have recently been advocating that teenagers should confess their intimate sexual sins privately to pastors. This is more creepy than quiet meditation on small sections of God's Word!

You can always tell the frustrated lifer Lutherans. My own single biggest hesitation to joining the Lutheran church was that so many of the people in the pews did not, themselves, seem to believe the excellent teaching that their confessions stated so well. And whenever they tried to be something they weren't, they just came across as silly, anachronistic, outdated, and yes, hopelessly irrelevant.

What we've heard here is not a Lutheran view of contemplation. It's a frustrated, evangelical/emergent wannabe view of contemplation. Frank, isn't there anything you can do with this, some authority to take it to and get it pulled? Surely even a newbie can see that this workshop wasn't anything resembling "Lutheran"- it's distictively UN-Lutheran, anti-Lutheran, pro-charismatic.

So the “presenter” has been to a seminary and you haven’t, has a degree in theology and you don’t, and is trained to give these classes which apparently you aren’t. Maybe you could learn something by listening to what the presenter had to say instead of doing nothing but criticizing people who are actually doing something for their church.

Those people who have such a beaf about how contemplative prayer is so exclusive to the New Age movement should read church history books and stay away from fear mongering Fundie books and blogs!

"The presenter has been to seminary [just like Bishop Spong and others] and is therefore above all theological criticism"-- check.

"Who cares if this person is teaching questionable things? At least he's DOING something for his church, which you OBVIOUSLY aren't"-- check.

"If it something vaguely resembling what is described here was ever used anywhere in the history of Christianity, it is therefore perfectly acceptable for Lutheran use and is in tune with their teaching"-- check.

Good grief.

I think Frank has done a pretty good job so far in the post in simply laying out what the speaker had to say, even taking the special care to give exact quotes. This gives the commentors a chance to hear exactly what was said, and to weigh in accordingly.

Anon2,

““I believe it would be fair to say that most of the members of the class went away with the misconception that they were taught a “form” that the reformer would have approved of.” That is just your opinion.” Yes, it is my opinion and that is exactly what I said; that’s what the “I believe” means. The reason I said that was that the people who were quoted in the workshop as promoting or creating these practices were Roman Catholic mystics that even the LCMS (by way of our confessions) recognize as problematic. If the instructor tells the class that the mystics and Luther both practice a version of the same prayer form and no further explanation is given, how would ANYBODY know that there is any difference at all? You do know there was a difference in what the mystic did and what Luther did, dontchya?

Second point, “Where this women is probably coming from is in reaction to how certain “higher things” clergy have recently been advocating that teenagers should confess their intimate sexual sins privately to pastors. This is more creepy than quiet meditation on small sections of God's Word!” No, you are wrong! The women made it very clear that she rejected what the LCMS subscribes to, what our Confessions confess and teach, and what our Lord says in Scripture. Period. How do I know this? Because that is what she said. She said she would NEVER teach her child that which Christ commanded the apostles to teach us. You do know that Confession and Absolution is something that the LCMS subscribes to because our Confessions confess and teach this, and that our Lord gave the apostles these keys in Scripture, dontchya?

“Where this women is probably coming from is in reaction to how certain “higher things” clergy have recently been advocating that teenagers should confess their intimate sexual sins privately to pastors. This is more creepy than quiet meditation on small sections of God's Word!” Since the women didn’t mention HT I have no way of knowing if she thought that. I do know that the pastors who are involved with HT, a recognized service organization (you did know that they are a RSO, didntchya?) promote the practice of confession and absolution because that’s what our Confessions teach because that’s what our Lord tells them as pastors to do. Do you know of something else going on? If you think there is something creepy going on I would suggest you contact the pastor’s bishop or the authorities if you think those keys of the pastoral office are being used for anything other that what they are intended for. If not, you should stop bearing false witness and murdering the good name of the pastors associated with HT.

At least when I critique, I have quotes in context and not innuendo like some interweb troll.

Anon3 you have a valid point, thank you. So what do I do when confronted with such material? I test what is being said in the name of God with the actual Word of God; Scripture!

The presenter did say that we should use Scripture as a “foundation” for our “spirituality” but that we can use these new prayer forms to “access God’s frequency” through prayers. Nowhere in Scripture does it say that we empty our minds of thoughts to hear God, use our imaginations and dreams to access God, or that we shouldn’t be concerned about sound Biblical doctrine as, say maybe Peter, Paul, or the rest of the apostles that Jesus charged to give said doctrines to His church.

In fact we are called to test all things and even if (hate to bring Scripture into a discussion on prayer and spiritual formation…) an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. Gal 1:8. If we are to challenge even angels to remain faithful to God’s Word shouldn’t we challenge people to say God’s Word say this but we can do better if we add to it by doing that?

"That is just your opinion. You have not refuted a Lutheran view of contemplation.

Maybe Mr. Anon could reveal his identity and also present the "Lutheran view of contemplation"? Frank is doing a rather nice job of letting the evidence speak for itself and so far I don't see what is "Lutheran" about the enthusiasm being presented in this "prayer" class.

" Meditation is no exclusive to the New Age movement than folding hands in prayer is to pagan goddess religions."

That is true and is why I am concerned with the meditation forms being presented, since they are very much teaching to empty the mind in order to attain an altered state of consciousness in order to "hear" God. That is not a Christian form of meditation, but an eastern form. Christian meditation is simply to give attention, or thought, to what one is reading or praying. It is NOT praying a mantra in order to reach mental clarity so one can "hear" God.

"Where this women is probably coming from is in reaction to how certain “higher things” clergy have recently been advocating that teenagers should confess their intimate sexual sins privately to pastors. This is more creepy than quiet meditation on small sections of God's Word!"

Private confession of any sin is not "creepy". It is a wonderful gift given to us by God. I want to also point out that some teens may be tremendously burdened with their sexual sins and while they can't talk to their parents, they may be able to talk with their pastors. What is "creepy" is anyone discouraging such a salutary practice as private confession.

"So the “presenter” has been to a seminary and you haven’t, has a degree in theology .... Maybe you could learn something by listening to what the presenter had to say...."

Mr. Anon, maybe you could reveal your identity and tell us about your theological training that equips you to defend the practices presented in the original post?

"Those people who have such a beaf about how contemplative prayer is so exclusive to the New Age movement should read church history books and stay away from fear mongering Fundie books and blogs!"

Here you have an opportunity to clear up what you believe is a misconception being presented. However, I can't find where in the original article on this topic anyone claimed so-called "Contemplative Prayer" is exclusive to the New Age. Yes, New Agers practice Contemplative Prayer, but so do Hindus and Buddhists and now some Christians who are being led astray. Obviously Contemplative Prayer is not exclusive to the New Age movement, or even to the Emergent Church Movement.

What would be really nice is that one of these times "anonymous" Internet trolls would reveal their identities so we know who is baiting and maybe we could understand where they are coming from.

This comment has been removed by the author.

"This is not about getting it right." I'm still an ELCA pastor and I've heard this one before! But it is all about the 'spirit'. And the 'spirit' is showing us all sorts of new things: from worship to prayer to morality. And can you imagine if a pilot or a teacher or a mechanic or a musician not wanting "to get it right"!!!

Thank you, Frank. It's a lot of work to write up a presentation - you've done us a good service by writing it up so we can "hear" what you heard - as painful and annoying as it is.

Sigh.

So the “presenter” has been to a seminary and you haven’t, has a degree in theology and you don’t, and is trained to give these classes which apparently you aren’t.

This attitude needs to end. Now.

As someone with only one year left of my M.Div program, I can speak with some limited authority on the benefits of seminary education and pastoral formation. I have learned more than I ever imagined, and I owe so much to my professors. We have a grand tradition of wise doctors of the church who teach the faith to the next generation of undershepherds. But -- the Lutheran church also owes an enormous debt to faithful lay theologians (amateur and professional) who have stood firmly in defense of the faith.

Philipp Melanchthon was a layman, yet he wrote the Augsburg Confession and its Apology -- critical documents to Lutheran identity and fidelity.

Though not a Lutheran, many Lutherans have benefited from the wisdom of lay theologian C. S. Lewis and his works in apologetics.

During the crisis at the St. Louis seminary in the 1950s-1970s with higher critical hermeneutics, it was largely the outcry of faithful laymen that provided the momentum to correct the problem.

Dr. Uwe Siemon-Netto founded the Center for Lutheran Theology and Public Life, which helps promote Lutherans to serve God within their own God-given lay vocations.

Today, many faithful laymen (and dare I say, laywomen) are taking renewed interest in the theological divisions and issues facing the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. Our strong backbone has always been a well-catechized laity, and we do them violence when we act as though they are incapable of evaluating the theology of an ordained pastor. I wish more laymen would take the interest Frank has taken in looking critically at the theology being presented from their church's pulpit, from their district, and from the synod in general.

Thank you, Frank, for these posts and your fidelity to Scriptures and the Confessions.

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