Contemplative Primitive Christian Prayer 2

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” ~ Mark 1:35

In my last post, I pointed out that Western Christianity lost its mystic tradition of contemplative prayer about 500 years ago.  Contemplation was the prevailing type of Christian prayer for nearly 1,600 years in the Latin West and it still remains the principal prayer tradition of the Orthodox East.   Today, I want to follow up on that thought and discuss the fact that contemplative prayer was established as the principal type of prayer of Christianity in the very beginning, by Jesus himself.

In the very first Chapter (v. 35) of our oldest Gospel, Mark tells how Jesus habitually prayed; alone in a solitary place without distraction.  In fact, just before teaching the disciples the “Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew 6, Jesus tells them, “whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”(v.6).  In these passages, Jesus also tells his disciple how not to pray: “And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others” (v.5); and “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words” (v. 7).  These are not isolated incidents and remarks, but characteristic of Jesus’s prayer life throughout the Gospel accounts of his ministry.  As Luke tells us, “So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.” (v. 5:16).

Clearly, Jesus set Contemplative Prayer as the standard for Christians, what I will call “Primitive Christian Prayer”.  I use the word “primitive” not in the sense of the word that denotes “crude”, “unfinished”, or “simplistic”, but in the sense of  being “primary, original, and pristine”.  Primitive Christian Prayer is the way Jesus prayed.  It was the principal prayer tradition of the early Church.

You have never heard that message preached from a Protestant pulpit (or Catholic, for that matter), have you?

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