Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Tag

The Pursuit of God   2 comments

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This is from the blog Pastor Jonathan Lee:

A.W. Tozer (1897-1963)

Every generation seems to have that person who stands out more than the rest. For the early twentieth century, it would seem that person is A. W. Tozer. The Bible gives us a brief story about a man named Enoch. Not much is known about him other than a few verses in the Bible. His life is summed up this way: “Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24). Though Tozer did not leave this earth like Enoch, we can summarize his life the same way. Tozer walked with God, pursued after God, and then went home to be with God.

Tozer was a pastor, author, editor of The Alliance Witness Magazine, conference speaker, and one who walked with God and knew Him intimately.

One may not agree with everything that Tozer said on such things like Christians and the movies, or music styles in the church, but one cannot overlook the impact that Tozer has left on the world from his personal account that he shared of pursuing after God. He is a world changer not only because he was an American pastor who was a successful writer, but by his devotional writing which has changed the hearts and minds of so many people to desire God.

He was not only a gifted writer but also an ordained speaker. Warren Wiersbe, who heard Tozer preach, said, “To listen to Tozer preach was as safe as opening the door of a blast furnace.” He was a man in a whole different league when it came to his relationship with God.[1] Leonard Ravenhill said, “To enter into Dr. Tozer’s presence was an awe-inspiring event.”[2]

Another colleague, William F. Bryan, said, “I consider Dr. Tozer the most remarkable man of God that I have known personally. In my opinion, his greatest gifts were prophetic insight regarding biblical truth and the nature and state of the evangelical church of his generation. He was respected highly even by those that considered him severe and aloof; but to those who knew him, he was gracious and kind. I believe he was a lonely man, as many great men of God have been.”[3]

W. Tozer wrote prophetically in regard to the Christian community in the Western world. For example, in The Pursuit of God he wrote,

“The world is perishing for lack of the knowledge of God and the Church is famishing for want of His Presence.”

Discerning that modern Christianity was sailing through dense fog, he pointed out the rocks on which it could flounder if it continued its course.[4]

What stood out for Tozer to be able to be so close to God?

Aiden Wilson Tozer was born in 1897 into a small farming community in Pennsylvania.

God allowed Tozer to be effective for 44 years of ministry and out of those 44 years, 31 years he served as pastor of Southside Alliance Church in Chicago, though he had no formal theological training. He would be known not just as a key figure in the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church but a national figure for his writings and Tozergrams (pithy sayings gleaned from Tozer’s pulpit ministry or from his hours in his study).[5]

He and his wife Ada had seven children. They lived a very modest life; he and Ada never owned a car while they were married. He usually requested that his pastoral salary be lower than what was being offered as he trusted the Lord in their provision. Even when he became more well known, he signed away most of his book royalties.

Probably out of the 40-plus writings attributed to him, his best-known work is the Pursuit of God. The book came about from a God-inspired night as he rode a train from Chicago to Texas. The story is recounted by his friend:

“He was invited to speak at McAllen, Texas, and he thought on the long ride down there that he would write on this book. He boarded the train—the old Pullman train—at LaSalle Street Station in Chicago—the days when you would pull the curtain on the roommette and he would be all alone. Well, he asked for a little writing table, which the porter brought him and he started to write. Along about nine o’clock the porter knocked on the side of the door and said, ‘Friend, this is the last call for dinner—would you want something to eat?’ And he said, ‘Bring me some toast and some tea,’ which he did. [Tozer] kept on writing, all night long, this thing coming as fast to his heart as he could write, and when they pulled into the station, about 7:30 the next morning, at McAllen, Texas, that book was finished and all he had in front of him was just the Bible.”[6]

If anyone could be an expert at pursuing God, Tozer would be among the closest. We can learn from Tozer that we too can pursue God—just like Moses, who was close to God, still desired more of God by asking to see His glory (Exodus 33). Tozer wrote, “We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit.”[7] When you think about this truth, you can’t help but want the spark in your life to seek God and all His goodness. What a desire it is for the man or woman of God to taste and see that the Lord is good! Once you do, you don’t want to stop; it is in God that one is completely satisfied.

Tozer knew the nearness of God, as he would write,

“We need never shout across the spaces to an absent God. He is nearer than our own soul, closer than our most secret thoughts.”[8]

He wanted to share this with other believers. We have the nearness of God and we can pursue after Him in a deep relationship. He showed that it is possible to be close with God and how sweet that closeness can be.

Tozer remained faithful to his calling and was able to finally go home to be with the Lord in 1963.

He Was a Man of Prayer

What stands out about Tozer more than his contributions to the devotional life of the believer is the way he prayed. Tozer would say, “As a man prays, so is he.” His entire ministry of preaching and writing flowed out of fervent prayer. What he discovered in prayer soon found expression in sermons, articles, editorials, and books.[9]

Biographer Dr. David J. Fant Jr. said, “Tozer literally wrote The Pursuit of God [while] on his knees. Perhaps that explains its power and the blessing that has rested on it.”[10]

Tozer was known for not only his prayer life but how he prayed. Much of the battle was on his knees. He even had a pair of trousers that he kept in his office to pray in so he would not wear out the knees of his other pants. The story goes,

“Although [Tozer] never boasted about his devotional habits, those few who knew him well knew that the angular man with little formal schooling learned much about his Lord and his God in the secret place. Tozer spent incalculable hours in prayer. Most of his prolonged prayer time—with his Bible and hymnals as his only companions—took place in his church office on the back side of the second floor. He would carefully hang up his suit trousers and don his sweater and raggedy old ‘prayer pants’ and sit for a while on his ancient office couch. After a time his spirit would drift into another realm. In time, he would abandon the couch, get on his knees, and eventually lie face down on the floor, singing praises to the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.”[11]

For all those that knew Tozer, this was not some religious ritual. He had a close relationship with his Savior and this was how he engaged with the Lord.

Through the example of Tozer, we can learn that not only is there power in prayer but it is in our prayer time that we have sweet fellowship with the Lord. We are told to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). That happens when we spend time with the Lord in seeking after Him. We live in a very distracting time of life; that is why we must guard our time and have these moments of prayer like Tozer to see who God is and allow Him to reveal Himself to us.

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Recommended Reading:

A Passion for God: The Spiritual Journey of A. W. Tozer by Lyle Dorsett

The Pursuit of God by A. W Tozer

The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer

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[1] Wiersbe, Warren. 10 People Every Christian Should Know. Pg. 114.

[2] Snyder, James L. The Life of A. W. Tozer In Pursuit of God. Pg. 6.

[3] IBID. Pg. 13

[4] Snyder, James L. The Life of A. W. Tozer In Pursuit of God. Pg. 14

[5] IBID. Pg. 70.

[6] Doresett, Lyle. A Passion for God: The Spiritual Journey of A. W. Tozer. Pg. 120

[7] Tozer, A. W. The Pursuit of God. Pg. 17.

[8] IBID. Pg. 72

[9] Snyder, James L. The Life of A. W. Tozer In Pursuit of God. Pg. 15

[10] Tozer, A. W. The Pursuit of God. Pg. 12.

[11] Dorsett, Lyle. A Passion for God: The Spiritual Journey of A. W. Tozer. Pg. 121

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Scribes and Prophets
The Cross is a Radical Thing
The World is the Battleground
Tozer on Why We Shouldn’t Pray for Revival

Listening to God before We Speak for Him   3 comments

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This is from the Life is Worship blog:

“Holy men of soberer and quieter times than ours knew well the power of silence. David said, I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred. My heart was hot within me; while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue. There is a tip here for God’s modern prophets. The heart seldom gets hot while the mouth is open. A closed mouth before God and a silent heart are indispensable for the reception of certain kinds of truth. No man is qualified to speak who has not first listened. It might well be a wonderful revelation to some Christians if they were to get completely quiet for a short time, long enough, let us say, to get acquainted with their own souls, and to listen in the silence for the deep voice of the Eternal God. The experience, if repeated often enough, would do more to cure our ulcers than all the pills that ever rolled across a desk.”

–A.W. Tozer

 

Scribes and Prophets

Praying for Jessie   11 comments

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12 December 2015

Yesterday I walked eight miles from Belgrade to Manhattan, Montana on I-90.  I put my backpack down on the shoulder and waited a few minutes and this vehicle pulled over to give me a ride.  The driver’s name was Butch and he was from near Great Falls.  I told him that I was going to Missoula.

We stopped in Three Forks where Butch bought me a sandwich and something to drink.  He told me that he just flew back from Alaska.  He helped his son move from Montana to a new job in southeastern Alaska.  Butch also was a Christian and we had a great talk about the things of God as we traveled west.

When we drove into Missoula, Butch told me that things happen for a reason and that I was in his car for a reason.  He told me that he had a sister that lived south of Missoula who had cancer and was bedridden.  Her name was Jessie.  He said that maybe the Lord had him pick me up so that I could pray for her.  I agreed with him.

Previously I had told Butch that when I was living in Ames, Iowa (around 1990), that I had prayed for my roommate’s girlfriend, Vanessa.  Vanessa had gone to this doctor and she had to have surgery on her sinuses.  Before I prayed for Vanessa, I had told my roommate how my faith in Jesus Christ healed me of manic-depression back in 1986.  My roommate told Vanessa about this, so they wanted to talk to me about it.

I told Vanessa how I was healed and I asked her if she wanted me to lay hands on her and pray for her healing..  She said yes, so I laid my hands on her head, prayed in tongues and I could feel virtue go through my hands.  A few days later, I was at the lumber yard stocking some lumber up on the cat walk when I saw my roommate walking down the aisle of the building.  He had driven to the lumber yard to tell me that Vanessa had gone to the doctor and that there was nothing wrong with her sinuses—she was healed!  He held out his hand and reached up to me and we shook hands.  I said, “Praise the Lord!”, and went back to work.  I later told Vanessa that her faith had healed her.

Butch and I drove south of Missoula and we drove to his relative’s house where his sister, Jessie, was staying.  We walked into their house and we met Butch’s relatives.  Jessie was laying in bed in the living room.  It looked like she was in great pain.  Jessie told me that it was very difficult to breathe.

We talked for a little while and then I asked Jessie if I could put my hand on her shoulder and pray in tongues.  She agreed, so I began to pray.  I think I prayed for around five minutes; I could feel virtue go through my hands.  After we were done praying, Butch and myself and the rest of the family had some supper.

Butch then drove me to a gas station in Lolo where we talked for a short while.  We shook hands and I walked to my campsite down by the river.

Posted December 14, 2015 by Tim Shey in Uncategorized

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Leonard Ravenhill Quotes   4 comments

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Leonard Ravenhill

This is from the blog Craig T. Owens:

“No man is greater than his prayer life. The pastor who is not praying is playing; the people who are not praying are straying. The pulpit can be a shopwindow to display one’s talents; the prayer closet allows no showing off.

“Poverty-stricken as the Church is today in many things, she is most stricken here, in the place of prayer. We have many organizers, but few agonizers; many players and payers, few pray-ers; many singers, few clingers; lots of pastors, few wrestlers; many fears, few tears; much fashion, little passion; many interferers, few intercessors; many writers, but few fighters. Failing here, we fail everywhere.

“The two prerequisites to successful Christian living are vision and passion, both of which are born in and maintained by prayer. The ministry of preaching is open to few; the ministry of prayer-the highest ministry of all human offices—is open to all. Spiritual adolescents say, ‘I’ll not go tonight, it’s only the prayer meeting.’ It may be that satan has little cause to fear most preaching. Yet past experiences sting him to rally all his infernal army to fight against God’s people praying. Modern Christians know little of ‘binding and loosing,’ though the onus is on us-—‘Whatsoever ye shall bind….’ Have you done any of this lately? God is not prodigal with His power; but to be much for God, we must be much with God.

“This world hits the trail for hell with a speed that makes our fastest plane look like a tortoise; yet alas, few of us can remember the last time we missed our bed for a night of waiting upon God for a world-shaking revival. Our compassions are not moved. We mistake the scaffolding for the building. Present-day preaching, with its pale interpretation of divine truths, causes us to mistake action for unction, commotion for creation, and rattles for revivals.

“The secret of praying is praying in secret. A sinning man will stop praying, and a praying man will stop sinning. We are beggared and bankrupt, but not broken, nor even bent.

“Prayer is profoundly simple and simply profound. ‘Prayer is the simplest form of speech that infant lips can try,’ and yet so sublime that it outranges all speech and exhausts man’s vocabulary. A Niagara of burning words does not mean that God is either impressed or moved. One of the most profound of Old Testament intercessors had no language ‘Her lips moved, but her voice was not heard.’ No linguist here! There are ‘groanings which cannot be uttered.’

“Are we so substandard to New Testament Christianity that we know not the historical faith of our fathers (with its implications and operations), but only the hysterical faith of our fellows? Prayer is to the believer what capital is to the business man.

“Can any deny that in the modern church setup the main cause of anxiety is money? Yet that which tries the modern churches the most, troubled the New Testament Church the least. Our accent is on paying, theirs was on praying. When we have paid, the place is taken; when they had prayed, the place was shaken!

“In the matter of New Testament, Spirit-inspired, hell-shaking, world-breaking prayer, never has so much been left by so many to so few. For this kind of prayer there is no substitute. We do it—or die!”

–Leonard Ravenhill,  from his book Why Revival Tarries

The Spirit of a Prophet
Leonard Ravenhill Sermons
The Baptism of Fire

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The Prophet

“The prophet is God’s detective seeking for a lost treasure. The degree of his effectiveness is determined by his measure of unpopularity. Compromise is not known to him.
He has no price tags.
He is totally ‘otherworldly.’
He is unquestionably controversial and unpardonably hostile.
He marches to another drummer!
He breathes the rarefied air of inspiration.
He is a ‘seer’ who comes to lead the blind.
He lives in the heights of God and comes into the valley with a ‘thus saith
the Lord.’
He shares some of the foreknowledge of God and so is aware of
impending judgment.
He lives in ‘splendid isolation.’
He is forthright and outright, but he claims no birthright.
His message is ‘repent, be reconciled to God or else…!’
His prophecies are parried.
His truth brings torment, but his voice is never void.
He is the villain of today and the hero of tomorrow.
He is excommunicated while alive and exalted when dead!
He is dishonored with epithets when breathing and honored with
epitaphs when dead.
He is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, but few ‘make the grade’ in his class.
He is friendless while living and famous when dead.
He is against the establishment in ministry; then he is established as a saint
by posterity.
He eats daily the bread of affliction while he ministers, but he feeds the Bread of
Life to those who listen.
He walks before men for days but has walked before God for years.
He is a scourge to the nation before he is scourged by the nation.
He announces, pronounces, and denounces!
He has a heart like a volcano and his words are as fire.
He talks to men about God.
He carries the lamp of truth amongst heretics while he is lampooned by men.
He faces God before he faces men, but he is self-effacing.
He hides with God in the secret place, but he has nothing to hide in
the marketplace.
He is naturally sensitive but supernaturally spiritual.
He has passion, purpose and pugnacity.
He is ordained of God but disdained by men.”

–Leonard Ravenhill

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Obedience, Fasting and Prayer   4 comments

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This quote is from my book The First Time I Rode a Freight Train & other hitchhiking stories, page 51:

“‘The monastic way is very different. Obedience, fasting and prayer are laughed at, yet only through them lies the way to real, true freedom. I cut off my superfluous and unnecessary desires, I subdue my proud and wanton will and chastise it with obedience, and with God’s help I attain freedom of spirit and with it spiritual joy.'”

[excerpt from The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky; Book VI, “The Russian Monk”]

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“We tend to use prayer as a last resort, but God wants it to be our first line of defense. We pray when there’s nothing else we can do, but God wants us to pray before we do anything at all.

“Most of us would prefer, however, to spend our time doing something that will get immediate results. We don’t want to wait for God to resolve matters in His good time because His idea of ‘good time’ is seldom in sync with ours.”

― Oswald Chambers

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“Be not forgetful of prayer. Every time you pray, if your prayer is sincere, there will be new feeling and new meaning in it, which will give you fresh courage, and you will understand that prayer is an education.”

― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

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“It is possible to know all about doctrine and still not know Jesus.  A person’s soul is in grave danger when the knowledge of doctrine surpasses Jesus, avoiding intimate touch with Him.”

–Oswald Chambers

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Missionary Quotations: Hudson Taylor
Where Have All the Monks Gone
New Testament Circumcision
Paga (Intercession)
Obedience: The Bondage Breaker

The Three Hermits   7 comments

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The Three Hermits
By Leo Tolstoy

“And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him.” (Matthew 6: 7-8)

A BISHOP was sailing from Archangel to the Solovétsk Monastery; and on the same vessel were a number of pilgrims on their way to visit the shrines at that place. The voyage was a smooth one. The wind favourable, and the weather fair. The pilgrims lay on deck, eating, or sat in groups talking to one another. The Bishop, too, came on deck, and as he was pacing up and down, he noticed a group of men standing near the prow and listening to a fisherman who was pointing to the sea and telling them something. The Bishop stopped, and looked in the direction in which the man was pointing. He could see nothing however, but the sea glistening in the sunshine. He drew nearer to listen, but when the man saw him, he took off his cap and was silent. The rest of the people also took off their caps, and bowed.

‘Do not let me disturb you, friends,’ said the Bishop. ‘I came to hear what this good man was saying.’

‘The fisherman was telling us about the hermits,’ replied one, a tradesman, rather bolder than the rest.

‘What hermits?’ asked the Bishop, going to the side of the vessel and seating himself on a box. ‘Tell me about them. I should like to hear. What were you pointing at?’

‘Why, that little island you can just see over there,’ answered the man, pointing to a spot ahead and a little to the right. ‘That is the island where the hermits live for the salvation of their souls.’

‘Where is the island?’ asked the Bishop. ‘I see nothing.’

‘There, in the distance, if you will please look along my hand. Do you see that little cloud? Below it and a bit to the left, there is just a faint streak. That is the island.’

The Bishop looked carefully, but his unaccustomed eyes could make out nothing but the water shimmering in the sun.

‘I cannot see it,’ he said. ‘But who are the hermits that live there?’

‘They are holy men,’ answered the fisherman. ‘I had long heard tell of them, but never chanced to see them myself till the year before last.’

And the fisherman related how once, when he was out fishing, he had been stranded at night upon that island, not knowing where he was. In the morning, as he wandered about the island, he came across an earth hut, and met an old man standing near it. Presently two others came out, and after having fed him, and dried his things, they helped him mend his boat.

‘And what are they like?’ asked the Bishop.

‘One is a small man and his back is bent. He wears a priest’s cassock and is very old; he must be more than a hundred, I should say. He is so old that the white of his beard is taking a greenish tinge, but he is always smiling, and his face is as bright as an angel’s from heaven. The second is taller, but he also is very old. He wears tattered, peasant coat. His beard is broad, and of a yellowish grey colour. He is a strong man. Before I had time to help him, he turned my boat over as if it were only a pail. He too, is kindly and cheerful. The third is tall, and has a beard as white as snow and reaching to his knees. He is stern, with over-hanging eyebrows; and he wears nothing but a mat tied round his waist.’

‘And did they speak to you?’ asked the Bishop.

‘For the most part they did everything in silence and spoke but little even to one another. One of them would just give a glance, and the others would understand him. I asked the tallest whether they had lived there long. He frowned, and muttered something as if he were angry; but the oldest one took his hand and smiled, and then the tall one was quiet. The oldest one only said: “Have mercy upon us,” and smiled.’

While the fisherman was talking, the ship had drawn nearer to the island.

‘There, now you can see it plainly, if your Grace will please to look,’ said the tradesman, pointing with his hand.

The Bishop looked, and now he really saw a dark streak—which was the island. Having looked at it a while, he left the prow of the vessel, and going to the stern, asked the helmsman:

‘What island is that?’

‘That one,’ replied the man, ‘has no name. There are many such in this sea.’

‘Is it true that there are hermits who live there for the salvation of their souls?’

‘So it is said, your Grace, but I don’t know if it’s true. Fishermen say they have seen them; but of course they may only be spinning yarns.’

‘I should like to land on the island and see these men,’ said the Bishop. ‘How could I manage it?’

‘The ship cannot get close to the island,’ replied the helmsman, ‘but you might be rowed there in a boat. You had better speak to the captain.’

The captain was sent for and came.

‘I should like to see these hermits,’ said the Bishop. ‘Could I not be rowed ashore?’

The captain tried to dissuade him.

‘Of course it could be done,’ said he, ‘but we should lose much time. And if I might venture to say so to your Grace, the old men are not worth your pains. I have heard say that they are foolish old fellows, who understand nothing, and never speak a word, any more than the fish in the sea.’

‘I wish to see them,’ said the Bishop, ‘and I will pay you for your trouble and loss of time. Please let me have a boat.’

There was no help for it; so the order was given. The sailors trimmed the sails, the steersman put up the helm, and the ship’s course was set for the island. A chair was placed at the prow for the Bishop, and he sat there, looking ahead. The passengers all collected at the prow, and gazed at the island. Those who had the sharpest eyes could presently make out the rocks on it, and then a mud hut was seen. At last one man saw the hermits themselves. The captain brought a telescope and, after looking through it, handed it to the Bishop.

‘It’s right enough. There are three men standing on the shore. There, a little to the right of that big rock.’

The Bishop took the telescope, got it into position, and he saw the three men: a tall one, a shorter one, and one very small and bent, standing on the shore and holding each other by the hand.

The captain turned to the Bishop.

‘The vessel can get no nearer in than this, your Grace. If you wish to go ashore, we must ask you to go in the boat, while we anchor here.’

The cable was quickly let out, the anchor cast, and the sails furled. There was a jerk, and the vessel shook. Then a boat having been lowered, the oarsmen jumped in, and the Bishop descended the ladder and took his seat. The men pulled at their oars, and the boat moved rapidly towards the island. When they came within a stone’s throw they saw three old men: a tall one with only a mat tied round his waist: a shorter one in a tattered peasant coat, and a very old one bent with age and wearing an old cassock—all three standing hand in hand.

The oarsmen pulled in to the shore, and held on with the boathook while the Bishop got out.

The old men bowed to him, and he gave them his benediction, at which they bowed still lower. Then the Bishop began to speak to them.

‘I have heard,’ he said, ‘that you, godly men, live here saving your own souls, and praying to our Lord Christ for your fellow men. I, an unworthy servant of Christ, am called, by God’s mercy, to keep and teach His flock. I wished to see you, servants of God, and to do what I can to teach you, also.’

The old men looked at each other smiling, but remained silent.

‘Tell me,’ said the Bishop, ‘what you are doing to save your souls, and how you serve God on this island.’

The second hermit sighed, and looked at the oldest, the very ancient one. The latter smiled, and said:

‘We do not know how to serve God. We only serve and support ourselves, servant of God.’

‘But how do you pray to God?’ asked the Bishop.

‘We pray in this way,’ replied the hermit. ‘Three are ye, three are we, have mercy upon us.’

And when the old man said this, all three raised their eyes to heaven, and repeated:

‘Three are ye, three are we, have mercy upon us!’

The Bishop smiled.

‘You have evidently heard something about the Holy Trinity,’ said he. ‘But you do not pray aright. You have won my affection, godly men. I see you wish to please the Lord, but you do not know how to serve Him. That is not the way to pray; but listen to me, and I will teach you. I will teach you, not a way of my own, but the way in which God in the Holy Scriptures has commanded all men to pray to Him.’

And the Bishop began explaining to the hermits how God had revealed Himself to men; telling them of God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.

‘God the Son came down on earth,’ said he, ‘to save men, and this is how He taught us all to pray. Listen and repeat after me: “Our Father.”‘

And the first old man repeated after him, ‘Our Father,’ and the second said, ‘Our Father,’ and the third said, ‘Our Father.’

‘Which art in heaven,’ continued the Bishop.

The first hermit repeated, ‘Which art in heaven,’ but the second blundered over the words, and the tall hermit could not say them properly. His hair had grown over his mouth so that he could not speak plainly. The very old hermit, having no teeth, also mumbled indistinctly.

The Bishop repeated the words again, and the old men repeated them after him. The Bishop sat down on a stone, and the old men stood before him, watching his mouth, and repeating the words as he uttered them. And all day long the Bishop laboured, saying a word twenty, thirty, a hundred times over, and the old men repeated it after him. They blundered, and he corrected them, and made them begin again.

The Bishop did not leave off till he had taught them the whole of the Lord’s prayer so that they could not only repeat it after him, but could say it by themselves. The middle one was the first to know it, and to repeat the whole of it alone. The Bishop made him say it again and again, and at last the others could say it too.

It was getting dark, and the moon was appearing over the water, before the Bishop rose to return to the vessel. When he took leave of the old men, they all bowed down to the ground before him. He raised them, and kissed each of them, telling them to pray as he had taught them. Then he got into the boat and returned to the ship.

And as he sat in the boat and was rowed to the ship he could hear the three voices of the hermits loudly repeating the Lord’s prayer. As the boat drew near the vessel their voices could no longer be heard, but they could still be seen in the moonlight, standing as he had left them on the shore, the shortest in the middle, the tallest on the right, the middle one on the left. As soon as the Bishop had reached the vessel and got on board, the anchor was weighed and the sails unfurled. The wind filled them, and the ship sailed away, and the Bishop took a seat in the stern and watched the island they had left. For a time he could still see the hermits, but presently they disappeared from sight, though the island was still visible. At last it too vanished, and only the sea was to be seen, rippling in the moonlight.

The pilgrims lay down to sleep, and all was quiet on deck. The Bishop did not wish to sleep, but sat alone at the stern, gazing at the sea where the island was no longer visible, and thinking of the good old men. He thought how pleased they had been to learn the Lord’s prayer; and he thanked God for having sent him to teach and help such godly men.

So the Bishop sat, thinking, and gazing at the sea where the island had disappeared. And the moonlight flickered before his eyes, sparkling, now here, now there, upon the waves. Suddenly he saw something white and shining, on the bright path which the moon cast across the sea. Was it a seagull, or the little gleaming sail of some small boat? The Bishop fixed his eyes on it, wondering.

‘It must be a boat sailing after us,’ thought he ‘but it is overtaking us very rapidly. It was far, far away a minute ago, but now it is much nearer. It cannot be a boat, for I can see no sail; but whatever it may be, it is following us, and catching us up.’

And he could not make out what it was. Not a boat, nor a bird, nor a fish! It was too large for a man, and besides a man could not be out there in the midst of the sea. The Bishop rose, and said to the helmsman:

‘Look there, what is that, my friend? What is it?’ the Bishop repeated, though he could now see plainly what it was—the three hermits running upon the water, all gleaming white, their grey beards shining, and approaching the ship as quickly as though it were not morning.

The steersman looked and let go the helm in terror.

‘Oh Lord! The hermits are running after us on the water as though it were dry land!’

The passengers hearing him, jumped up, and crowded to the stern. They saw the hermits coming along hand in hand, and the two outer ones beckoning the ship to stop. All three were gliding along upon the water without moving their feet. Before the ship could be stopped, the hermits had reached it, and raising their heads, all three as with one voice, began to say:

‘We have forgotten your teaching, servant of God. As long as we kept repeating it we remembered, but when we stopped saying it for a time, a word dropped out, and now it has all gone to pieces. We can remember nothing of it. Teach us again.’

The Bishop crossed himself, and leaning over the ship’s side, said:

‘Your own prayer will reach the Lord, men of God. It is not for me to teach you. Pray for us sinners.

And the Bishop bowed low before the old men; and they turned and went back across the sea. And a light shone until daybreak on the spot where they were lost to sight.

[“The Three Hermits” was first published in 1886 by Niva magazine]

Tolstoy’s Three Hermits
Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky
Vintage Footage of Leo Tostoy
Prayer

three-hermits-2

Tolstoy on the road from Moscow to Yasnaya Polyana

Posted March 26, 2015 by Tim Shey in Uncategorized

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PRAYER: How and Why Short Prayers Pierce Heaven, from The Cloud of Unknowing   4 comments

cloud of unknowing

This is from the blog The Value of Sparrows:

Why does this little prayer of one syllable (such as, “Lord!” or “Father!” or “Jesus!”) pierce the heavens?  Surely because it is offered with a full spirit, in the height and the depth, in the length and the breadth of the spirit of him who prays.

In the height: that is with the full might of the spirit; in the depth: for in this little syllable all the faculties of the spirit are contained; in the length: because if it could always be experienced as it is in that moment, it would cry as it does then; in the breadth: because it desires for all others all that it desires for itself.

It is in this moment that the soul comprehends with all the saints what is the length and the breadth, the height and the depth of the everlasting, all-loving, almighty and all-wise God, as Saint Paul teaches; not fully, but in some way and to some degree, as is proper to this work.

The eternity of God is his length; his love is his breadth; his power is his height, and his wisdom is his depth.  No wonder, then, that the soul which is so nearly conformed by grace to the image and likeness of God his maker is immediately heard by God.

Yes, and even if it were a very sinful soul, one which is, as it were, God’s enemy as long as it should come, through grace, to cry out with such a little syllable from the height and the depth, the length and the breadth of it spirit, it would always be heard and helped by God in the very vehemence of its shriek.

The Value of Sparrows
The Cloud of Unknowing