Menno-lite Prayer in the New Year

Prayer has always been very important to Mennonites. The following excerpt from an article in the January issue of the MB Herald [1] describes the Mennonite commitment to prayer in the new year:

Five ways to deepen your prayer life in 2014
Jan 1, 2014

In conjunction with the conference’s “Week of Prayer” resource, some MB leaders share strategies for cultivating a richer prayer life:

I’ve started using The Voice of Jesus by Gordon Smith to guide my mornings and have found it inspiring. Smith lists five prayer activities to walk through each day: thanksgiving, confession, meditation (reading and reflecting), guidance for this day and silence.
—Jerry Giesbrecht, pastor, Fraserview Church, Richmond, B.C.

The most prevalent call to prayer in my life has been The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle. This plan of prayer, Scripture and readings from tradition and hymnody invites me to a desire (not always acted upon, but always present) to steal away into the quietness and intimacy of God’s presence. It follows the church calendar with four daily calls to prayer and reflection, and the verses and refrains often impact the other hours of my day.
—Mary Reimer, pastor, FaithWorks, Winnipeg

SOURCE: http://mbherald.com/five-ways-to-deepen-your-prayer-life-in-2014/

The Voice of Jesus that pastor Giesbrecht uses daily as a guide is written by Gordon Smith, president of Ambrose University College and Seminary in Calgary, Alberta (Church of the Nazarene and Christian & Missionary Alliance Canada). Before becoming Professor of Systematic and Spiritual Theology at Ambrose, Smith was associate professor of spiritual theology at Regent College in Vancouver BC. He also has a PhD from Loyola School of Theology. [2]

Much of Smith’s book, The Voice of Jesus [3], is drawn from Roman Catholic spiritual traditions of John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Jesuits) and his spiritual exercises.

While pastor Giesbrecht may use Smith’s book to guide his mornings, one Berean researcher writes that the exercises of Ignatius…

“…would motivate a person doing these exercises to increase their diligence in doing penances, instead of coming to Jesus where true forgiveness can be found. Regarding a visualization on the birth of Christ, Ignatius again advises using the five senses to imagine these scenes, including, “…what they are, or might be, talking about, and reflecting on oneself, to draw some profit from it.” (Mullan, 33) This type of visualization is not recommended in the Bible, and it goes beyond the Bible in imagining conversations and then trying to profit from these imaginary conversations, instead of being edified by the sure Word of God.”

SOURCE: A Historical Analysis of Mysticism: Part II
http://moriel.org/MorielArchive/index.php/discernment/a-historical-analysis-of-mysticism-part-ii

The Divine Hours of Phyllis Tickle, which Pastor Reimer considers the most prevalent call to prayer in her life, is another book that is not modelled on biblical prayer.[4] Tickle’s book is designed to invite readers into the ancient practice of fixed-hour prayer.

Here is how Phyllis Tickle discovered Fixed Hour prayer:

The kind of prayer that these Mennonite pastors value is the fixed hour of prayer of the Benedictine monks and the spiritual exercises of Ignatius of Loyola. Even so, the MB Herald promotes these leaders’ ‘strategies’ for a richer prayer life.

Equally, if not more distressing is another article in the same issue that infers that commitment to prayer in the new year includes teaching youth contemplative sprituality.

“As Mennonite Brethren, we are people of prayer… In cross-cultural settings, our commitment to prayer is evident. MB Mission – through SOAR and other short-term programs – is raising up a generation of young people who practise listening prayer as effortlessly as breathing.”

SOURCE: “Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night”
http://mbherald.com/neither-snow-nor-rain-nor-gloom-of-night/

While it is true that through SOAR and TREK[5] the new generation is being taught to practice called contemplative listening prayer “as effortlessly as breathing”, it too is unbiblical and has its roots in Roman Catholic and eastern mysticism. Much of this is happening through the MB affiliated Mark Centre, whose goal is to “serve thousands who will inspire millions to embrace a lifestyle of listening to God.”[6]

These Mennonites certainly are committed to prayer in the new year. How unfortunate that much of it appears to be based on mysticism, ritual, and/or Roman Catholic traditions, which their namesake, Menno Simons, boldly denounced. Are these Mennonites, who promote ancient fixed prayer and practise effortless listening prayer, Mennonites in the true sense? Or are they the new Menno-lites?

Endnotes:

[1] http://mbherald.com/january-14-issue/
[2] Ambrose University College hires Jesuit-educated contemplative spirituality proponent as its new president http://suspiciousberean.blogspot.ca/2012/05/ambrose-university-college-hires-jesuit.html
Christian & Missionary Alliance Students Taught to Listen to God – Contemplative Style http://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/christian-missionary-alliance-students-taught-to-listen-to-god-contemplative-style/
[3] http://books.google.ca/books?id=Xrfe9KD1t6oC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false
[4] The Great Emergence or A Great Deception? Be careful of Phyllis Tickle’s Teachings and Beliefs http://rootedinchrist.org/2010/11/30/the-great-emergence-or-a-great-deception/
The Great Emergence ~How Christianity is Changing and Why by Phyllis Tickle (Bad Fruit) http://thebereanlibrary.com/archives/category/phyllis-tickle-2
From the Circle of Prayer: Phyllis Tickle http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jonathanwilsonhartgrove/2012/02/from-the-circle-of-prayer-phyllis-tickle/
[5] MB YOUTH SOARING WITH CONTEMPLATIVE MINISTRY?
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/mb-youth-soaring-with-contemplative-ministry/
Mennonite Missions TREK to the Labyrinth and the Silence https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2012/07/04/mb-trek-to-the-labyrinth-and-the-silence/
A Trekker Learns Lectio Divina
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2010/12/23/a-trekker-learns-lectio-divina/
Mennonite Students go to Benedictine Monastery to Sit in Silence https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/09/23/mennonite-trekkers-go-to-benedictine-monastery-to-sit-in-silence/
[6] The Mark Centre and Silent Prayer – Strategy to Affect Millions https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/the-mark-centre-and-silent-prayer/

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