Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Yancey on Prayer: Action and Contemplation

1. Desmond Tutu

After the change of power in South Africa, Bishop Desmond Tutu found that his work had just begun. … "Day after day he listened to stories of deeds from hell acted out in his own country," says Philip Yancey. "In the midst of that time a reporter asked him, ‘Why do you pray?’ [Tutu replied:]

“‘If your day starts off wrong, it stays skewed. What I’ve found is that getting up a little earlier and trying to have an hour of quiet in the presence of God, mulling over some Scripture, supports me. I try to have two, three hours of quiet per day and even when I exercise, when I go on the treadmill for thirty minutes, I use that time for intercession. I try to have a map in my mind of the world and I go around the world, continent by continent – only Africa I do in a little more detail – and offer all of that to God.’” (p. 123)

2. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“…Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s secret, said one German theologian, was the creative way in which he combined prayer and earthiness, forging a spirituality that made room for piety as well as activism. While sequestered in a monastery and awaiting orders from the German resistance movement, Bonhoeffer wrote, ‘A day without morning and evening prayer and personal intercessions is actually a day without meaning or importance.’” (p. 124)

3. Prayer and Action

“…In my travels overseas I have seen the clear results of prayerful action. Christians have a strong belief in a powerful and good God and an equally strong calling to live out the qualities of that God on a damaged and rebellious planet. For this reason, wherever Christian missionaries have traveled they have left behind a trail of hospitals, clinics, orphanages, and schools. To preach God without the kingdom is no better than to preach the kingdom without God.

“We will not all find ourselves in the kind of dramatic circumstances that faced Bonhoeffer in Germany or Tutu in South Africa. But each of us in our own way will feel the tension between prayer and activism, between action and contemplation. I receive a newsletter from ‘The Center for Action and Contemplation’ and together those two words encompass most of what we are called to do in following Jesus. The founder of the center says, ‘I have often told folks that the most important word in our title is not ‘action’ nor even ‘contemplation,’ but ‘and.’” (p. 125)

Prayer: Does It Make a Difference? By Philip Yancey, p. 123-5.

Yancey's sources for this bit:

Bishop Desmond Tutu, quoted in Antjie Krog, Country of my Skull, 2000, p. 202.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, quoted in Geffrey B. Kelly and F. Burton Nelson, The Cost of Moral Leadership: The Spirituality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 2004, p. 228.

Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs, the Gift of Contemplative Prayer, 1999, p. 92.

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