As I was asked to do a devotional for our adult Sunday School class yesterday, I spent the week praying over what I should teach. As a former university professor, I have always loved teaching, and now that I have a couple of theological subjects about which I am passionate, I was game for the challenge.
So as I prayed in the early part of the week, it came to me strongly to teach what I myself am learning. And I have been reading The Way of a Pilgrim, a classic devotional work in the Russian Orthodox Church. Included in my copy, which I purchased at the Ad Lib Retreat from Eighth Day Books is the sequel, A Pilgrim Continues on the Way. And it was from that book that I shared.
Basically, our pilgrim friend has wandered from place to place within Russia and Siberia, trying to find how to follow St. Paul's command to "pray without ceasing." He finds many wise and unwise people in his travels, and he hears their stories on how to pray the Jesus prayer, which he calls "the interior prayer of Jesus," which is simply this: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Father, have mercy on me, a sinner. This is the long version of the prayer, as some shorten it to Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me. Praying this prayer constantly as a sort of background music as we go about our days brings us to close communion with God, says the pilgrim.
Anyway, in the part of the story in which I taught from, our pilgrim has found a companion on the way, a man who reads from the Gospels continually. After promising to travel together in silence so they can spend their travel time in prayer and/or study, the pilgrim asks his companion after three days about why he reads to Gospels so constantly. The companion replies that in the Gospels is laid out a perfect teaching on prayer, starting with the preliminaries of prayer, then to the external method of prayer, to its conditions, then to its success, along with examples. Then is taught, says the pilgrim's friend, the teachings on interior, constant prayer.
The companion was kind enough to mention chapter and verse for each of the "steps of prayer," so these I shared with the class. When I get my notes back from our regular teacher, I will post more, including some wonderful quotes.
I didn't have time to get to a mini-rant about unity in the Church, but I shall when I get my notes back as well.
Tomorrow is All Hallows Eve, but I am desperately hoping to be able to get to the All Saints and All Souls services at Alpine Anglican this week. Here's crossing my fingers and saying a prayer!