Today’s Eugene Peterson Quote:
The apocalyptic pastor prays. But prayer is not a work that pastors are often asked to do except in ceremonial ways. Most pastoral work actually erodes prayer. The reason is obvious; people are not comfortable with God in their lives. They prefer something less awesome and more informal. Something, in fact, like the pastor. Reassuring, accessible, easy-going. People would rather talk to the pastor than to God. And so it happens that without anyone actually intending it, prayer is pushed to the sidelines. And so pastors, instead of practicing prayer, which brings people into the presence of God, enter into the practice of messiah: we will do the work of God for God, fix people up, tell them what to do, conspire in finding the shortcuts by which the long journey to the Cross can be bypassed since we all have such crowded schedules right now. A sense of apocalypse blows the whistle on such messianic pastoring. If we have even an inkling of apocalypse, it will be impossible to act like the jaunty foreman of a home-improvement work crew that is going to re-landscape moral (or immoral) garden spots. We must pray. Eugene Peterson (from Chapter Four, The Contemplative Pastor pp. 52-53)
Have things gotten so bad in America that it’s finally come down to this?
You mean we gotta pray?
Can’t we just work harder or maybe just work smarter?
Certainly here in America, where our ‘know-how’ attitude and ‘can-do’ spirit have always been enough to tackle our biggest problems, we certainly don’t have to bother God for help now, do we?
Remember, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
So Eugene Peterson, put away this silly little notion that a pastor is supposed to be a man or woman of deep prayer. As long as we can put together a church program or two, no way we Americanized Christians are gonna bow our knee to the problems at hand. No sir. We’re Americans, Mr. Peterson. Prayer is for the weak and helpless ones. Not here in America, Eugene. Not here in the good ole’ U.S. of A.
And so it goes.
And day-by-day, the spiritual crisis in America worsens. Our economic problems alone grow deeper by the second and threaten to strangle an entire nation. Our political divisions between left and right are so severe; our government systems are frozen in gridlock. Politics fail to bring any real answers. The rich grow richer. The poor grow poorer. Our elected politicians compromise in order to stay in office. The ones looking to get elected make promises that can never be kept. War and rumors of war abound. Social change is promoted but few realize the real price of real change.
Speaking of prices. Costs for basic needs like food, clothing, transportation and shelter rise at rates far above the average income levels. Consumerism, the demand for individual rights, and an out-of-control entitlement mentality threaten to suffocate our society, making major cutbacks in spending impossible. A world-wide economic crisis looms. Gold is being hoarded. Dollars are being discarded.
And all the while, the Church in America stands off to the side, focusing on ourselves, assembling impressive programming that will help us break the next numerical barrier, build a bigger building, or raise more funds for the church coffers. Ambition and drive abound. Humility and quietness ignored.
Humble ourselves and seek His face?
Pursue His presence?
Pastors, it’s time to stop selling and telling. It’s time to start more praying and listening.
I wonder if now might be the time when pastors across America might stop long enough to hear the prophetic voice of the old sage, Eugene Peterson, speaking to us from 1989, calling us to become the apocalyptic praying people God envisions us to be?
If not now…than when?
If not you and me…than who?
My prayer: Oh God, oh God, oh God. Help. As I see it, we’re beyond earthly answers. If human initiative and fleshly programming could help us, I’m sure it would have happened by now. But alas, Father, we seem to be at the point where it’s time to stop the talk about prayer, humble ourselves, and actually pray. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: Why is it we pastors and church leaders are very good at preaching and talking about prayer, yet our schedules actually reflect so little time given to the work of prayer in our lives? What activities in my schedule need to be cut back in order to make more room for the practice of prayer and communion with God?
So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together The Contemplative Pastor?
Over a 37-blog series, you and I will take a deeper look at Eugene Peterson’s classic, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our blog series home page for ease of use. Keep in mind that one of the best ways to explore the on-going applications of this blog series is to walk alongside a biblically-based, Christ-centered spiritual director who is familiar with how to make material like this part of your overall spiritual formation in God. Many of our directors in our Contemplative Activist network are available to companion you in your journey with Jesus. Click here for more info.
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