pathways of prayer
Week 1 - The path of holiness
to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your Holy Name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
We began with a parable about our relationship with God - a story of two friends on a journey and how one friend seeks to return to the joy of the presence of her companion.
In her yearning to find the path back to her companion we can imagine how she reflected upon the holiness of God and how she might journey towards more
In the path of holiness we are thinking about the inward reformation of the human heart - the development of ‘holy character'.
In the Bible we find that there is always the question the People of God ask of themselves - "how can we be a Holy People?" Quite often being ‘holy' has a negative connotation - a religious person with a high view of their own virtue. But that is not what this is about. Being ‘holy' is about something more subtle and transforming of the human spirit.
'Holiness' is to be found at the heart of the spirituality of Methodism, of the Salvation Army and the Nazarene Church. An important strand of this stream is hymnody. Charles Wesley's hymns remain central to the Methodist tradition and strongly echo this sense of 'inner reformation' as the path towards 'holiness'. An example of this is Wesley's famous hymn Jesu, lover of my soul.
As we can see from the words of this hymn, holiness is characterised by an awareness of sinfulness and the need of repentance, confession of sins and most of all the reliance on God's grace.
So we are thinking this week about confession and brokenness in front of God as a key to prayer. The Jesus Prayer might be a good example. This comes from the Orthodox Churches and is a simple prayer that is repeated many times over:
Lord Jesus Christ
Son of God
Have mercy on me a sinner.
However the Holiness stream of Christian spirituality is far from introspective. Holiness of heart should flow into acts of love and grace - what the Nazarenes and Salvationists call "compassionate ministries" - this can be seen on the website of the Salvation Army.
It was this outpouring of a compassionate spirit that gave rise to many of the uniformed organisations for children and young people, charitable work with women and the ‘Temperance Movement'. This will take us to next week's path down which we travel - the Path of Social Justice, where the action for social justice is manifestation of prayer and spirituality.
Consider the Jesus Prayer - try to find a moment in each day to say this simple prayer quietly many times. In some traditions prayer beads are used to aid this - you might find them a helpful tool.
But the Path of Holiness is not simply confessing individual sins, it is also a recognition of those things deep in the human heart which we cannot mend by ourselves alone. We need God's grace to help us. The following prayer might be helpful in this respect:
We confess what seems always with us:
Broken things within us that never seem to mend,
Empty places within us that always seem to ache,
Things like buds within us that never seem to flower.
O God of love and grace,
Help us to accept ourselves;
Lead us to do those good and true things
That are not compromised by anything within us.
As much as can be,
Mend us, fill us, make us bloom.
For all these things, we will give you the glory;
Through Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Copyright 1986 by Richard D. Leach. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
May be reproduced for use in worship.
It might also be helpful to use Psalm 51 both as a passage on which to meditate and as a prayer.
The next step takes us along the path of Social Justice