You may have noticed that there is an entry on my “blog links” list in the side bar to “John Mark Ministries“, run by the Rev. Dr Rowland Croucher. In his Christmas email, John sent out a number of reflections relating to Philip Yancey’s new book: “Prayer: Does It Make any Difference?”. Among those reflections are the following which I thought particularly insightful. I will add my comments to those of Dr Croucher:
* Hans Kung’s theological tome ‘On Being a Christian’, 702 pages long, did not include a chapter or even an index entry on prayer… (My response: Why
And mine: How interesting–I have never noticed this, but now that it has been pointed out, it is rather like pointing out that the Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes, isn’t it?
* When a journalist asked Thomas Merton to diagnose the leading spiritual disease of our time, he gave a one-word answer: efficiency. Why? ‘From the monastery to the Pentagon, the plant has to run… and there is little time or energy left after that to do anything else…’ (How does that apply to the pastoral vocation?)
Ah yes. This is a regular conversation/argument my wife and I have. The pastors of her church have often tended to be “systems” men–they ran their pastoral ministry on a very efficient systematic basis. It gets the job done, often far better than a more dreamy-eyed mystical prayerful spiritual approach might, but I must say I have often wondered what one of Leunig’s ducks would make of this sort of pastoral busyness.
* Yancey: ‘If I had to answer the question “Why Pray?” in one sentence, it would be “Because Jesus did”.’ (Reminds me of Jacques Ellul’s answer to the same question in ‘Prayer and Modern Man’: ‘Why pray? Because Jesus told us to…’ Is that a better answer than Yancey’s?)
If memory serves me right, Luther also gave this answer in his Large Catechism. Which makes me wonder if in fact this answer is not even much more ancient in the tradition of the Church.
* A spiritual seeker interrupted a busy life to spend a few days in a monastery. ‘I hope your stay is a blessed one,’ said the monk who showed the visitor to his cell. ‘If you need anything, let us know and we’ll teach you how to live without it.’ (I took several books to read on my first (eight-day silent) retreat in a monastery).
I really, really like this one.
* Yancey: ‘I know of no recorded healing of cystic fibrosis’ (nor of pancreatic cancer which has a 100% mortality rate, nor the replacement of an amputated limb). Dr Paul Brand devoted his life to the treatment of leprosy, and never met a single patient who claimed to be cured miraculously of leprosy… and ‘No case I have treated personally would meet the rigorous criteria for a supernatural miracle.’ (Why not, if Jesus raised the dead and healed someone born blind…? Evangelical leader John Stott gets into trouble with Pentecostals/Charismatics by suggesting we are not meant to expect those sorts of miracles today)
Have a look at the website “http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/“. It’s one of Richard Dawkin’s favourites!
* Someone asked Gandhi, ‘If you were given the power to remake the world, what would you do first?’ He replied: ‘I would pray for power to renounce that power’ (now, honest, would that have been my response? Nope!)
Probably not me neither. The Pope was quoting Ghandi the other day in his World Day of Peace message…
It’s worth checking out the “new articles” on the John Mark Ministries website regularly. There is a wealth of material there.