Summary: This is part 2 of my Lenten Course on Prayer based on Richard Foster's brilliant book entitled Prayer
Story: In the early 60’s, a young Church of England ordinand went on a week’s silent retreat at Ampleforth.
In those days the rules were strict – and between meals and services (which started at 4 am in the morning) the ordinands on the retreat were expected to be in their rooms praying.
All went well until the Wednesday of the week, when the young man felt hungry. And so early in the afternoon after noon prayers, he decided to sneak out down to the village to buy a Mars Bar.
As good fortune would have it, he bumped into the Abbot of the monastery as he was slipping out of the gate. “Where are you going, my son” the Abbot asked
The young man with commendable presence of mind replied ”As I was praying this afternoon, The Holy Spirit commanded me to go down to the shops this afternoon”. “Very good” the Abbot replied, “If the Holy Spirit has sent you, who am I to say no.”
And as the young man departed, the abbot called
after him “ I hope you and the Holy Spirit know that it is half day closing in town today!”
Which brings me very nicely into my first subject this week, the ”Prayer of Relinquishment”
Last week we looked at
1. Simple Prayer and
2. Praying the Ordinary
This week I’d like to progress and look at
1. The Prayer of Relinquishment and
2. Formation Prayer
Let us start with
1. The Prayer of Relinquishment
Andrew Murray the great South African 19th Century preacher put it like this:
The Spirit teaches me to yield my will entirely to the Will of the Father. He opens my ear to wait in great gentleness and teachableness of soul for what the Father has day by day to speak and teach. He discovers to me how union with God’s will is union with God himself; how entire surrender to God’s will is the Father’s claim, the son’s example and the true blessedness of soul.”
Last week we looked at Simple Prayer that encompassed our own selfish prayers – and we concluded that that was ok.
However as we learn to pray we discover an interesting progression
In the beginning our will struggles with God’s will.
And it is a difficult struggle – we want instant solutions – and we want our solutions.
And that is OK
However with time, God touches us and we reach – as Richard Foster puts it a “grace-filled releasing of our will and a flowing into the will of the Father”
Story: When I first went forward for the ministry, I wanted to keep my job and become an NSM.
I wanted to keep the security of my job – which 8 years ago was worth about £70 K but I wanted to serve God in the Church too.
And I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to trust the Church of England for my salary.
I loved my job – I was at the top of the profession. One former Head of the European Patent Institute, Jan D’haemer wrote for my 50th Birthday party:
“Martin was one of the best patent attorneys I have met – unfortunately he knew it!!”
And just as God called me into the Church, I faced two exciting worldly opportunities
i) I was asked ICI - at Chartered Patent Agent Dinner and Dance - to come for a chat by the retiring ICI Head of Patents for the top patents job at ICI – the crème de la crème for a patent agent who is a chemist and
ii) later I was asked if I wanted the Unilever top patents job in the UK by the retiring Unilever head of patents.
I had to turn both opportunities down because of God’s call in my life to become a priest in the Church.
Of course there was no guarantee I would have got either job
But not only did I have to turn both down but when I got through ABM selection, my DDO called me up and said.
“Good news - You’re through - but the Archbishop of York wants you to go to theological college!!”
- a shock as I had gone to ABM offering myself as an NSM
I think my reply was “Mike, is he nuts!!”
And Mike’s wise reply was : “Why don’t you pray about it while you are away on business next week in America.”
I did and you decide if Mike and the archbishop were right!!!
But it was a prayer of relinquishment for me
And you can ask Maddy how much I loved being a patent lawyer – the cut and thrust of it all.
Richard Foster puts the matter very well when he says:
We learn the Prayer of Relinquishment in the school of Gethsemane