Do you strive for the constant realization of God’s presencein your life? Are you obedient to the leading and sensitive to the
timing of the Holy Spirit? Do you use prayer, meditation, Bible study,
other devotional literature and disciplines to grow and mature
spiritually? How do you seek to be a faithful steward of your life and
all that God has entrusted to you?
The first query is simply about personally practicing a life that leads to the recognition of the presence of God. The practice of It is about creating a life where we have space to know God is there. The first part of this — striving to be aware of God’s presence is the practice of a monk who was contemporary with George Fox named Brother Lawrence. He would make it a point to use his work period as a time for contemplative prayer — seeking to be aware of God while doing such tasks as washing dishes. He kept a prayer journal which showed how much of the day he was aware of God’s presence.
The question of obedience follows. Obedience is dependent upon hearing, so these two parts together suggest living according to a belief that God is present, and that God continues to speak to people today. — These first two questions are only really applicable to someone who is to some degree consciously aware of God’s presence. I know several strong Christians who deny being gifted with any mystical experiences. I wonder how they would respond to a challenge to attempt to become aware of God’s presence (Awareness of God’s presence is a mystical experience).
There is a second half which is more down to earth — do we pray, study the bible, do devotions or other practical disciplines. This points to early 19th century Friend, John Joseph Gurney who was responsible for re-interpreting Quakerism. We are often known as Gurneyites. He said of these active disciplines that they were necessary for us if to prepare for meeting for worship. He thought it was necessary to actively cultivate our knowledge of Christianity, and our spiritual health through deliberate discipline.
In a way this critiqued the Quietist view that saw encounters with God as purely initiated by God — and it corrected the weakness that Quietism allowed for laziness. Another thing this did was that it took personal responsibility for spirituality (or a lack thereof.) Taking responsibility for a rich prayer life may be arrogant, but recognizing that God has little place in our lives because we leave no place for God allows for change.
The question about spiritual stewardship really does speak to both sides. Whether we have a regular sense of God’s presence and many opportunities to follow God’s leading — or we simply study, and know how God has spoke with others — we can still follow the message that we have received. Stewardship is possible.
I would like to ask several questions for discussion:
- Has it been meaningful to focus on personal spirituality in the past week?
- Does this query focus too much on mystical experience? If so, how could it be changed?
- Have you been aware of God’s presence? If so, in what contexts have you become aware of God’s presence?
- Should we encourage those who are not conscious of God’s presence to become so, even if it is frustrating
- Is the attempt to experience God’s worthwhile, even without the experience?
- How do we feel about the recommended methods? (Bible study, prayer, meditation, other devotional literature, and disciplines?
- How does our meeting do at following this standard?
- Does the meeting feel that this is a goal?
- Is there any way that this query should be changed?
Homework for next week:
2: Are meetings for worship and business held as scheduled and do you attend them consistently and on time? Do you come to meeting with heart and mind prepared for communion with God and fellowship with one another? Are your meetings for business conducted in a spirit of worship and a united search for God’s leading in transacting the affairs of the meeting? Is the Meeting faithful in teaching and upholding Friends testimonies? How do you individually accept responsibility for your rightful share of the worship, work and financial support of the Meeting and Friends’ broader shared concerns?
As you can tell — this query is addressed to the meeting as a whole, so try to think of how our meeting conducts worship and its decision making process. Consider if we live up to this. Another thing to consider is that the there is a degree of personal responsibility — are we doing our part to help the group live up to our ideals.
As always, I also want you to consider if this truly represents our ideals — if not, what needs changed?