Monday, 27 February 2012

A New Awakening: of 950 Confirmations, Psalm 85 and Acedia

Can you imagine the Archbishop of Canterbury calling for a nation-wide day of prayer? He did in 1904 after

Thirty English bishops declared for the Revival after one of their number, deeply moved, told of confirming 950 new converts in a country parish church. (J Edwin Orr, The Restudy of Revival and Revivalism, 1981, p. 44)
Nine hundred and fifty confirmations in a rural parish! I wonder how long it took him?

We gathered again last evening to pray. Five women and two men around a table in the hall this time. We prayed through Psalm 85 from which my "revival" verse comes:

Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? (v6)
As we prayed, I realized that there will be other benefits for which it is worth praying:
that glory may dwell in our land. (v9)
And our land will yield its increase. (v12)
Oh yes!

Am I swept up and on by a lively spiritual fervour in this? No. I felt a real apathy about it all afternoon. Sunday afternoons are usually pretty low energy after the two morning services. It was cold outside and I would have liked to stay home in the warm to watch the Oscars (I did catch the end of the show and the big awards when I got home).

That sense of spiritual enervation and fatigue—dryness—is sometimes called acedia. Pilar Gonzalez Gateman from Christ Church, Fort McLeod has collected some notes on what helps her overcome it. She writes:

You had asked about the prayer I pray with regard to Acedia. I use the Psalms a lot  (91:6) , Philippians 4:4-7, Romans 12;1, Romans 8, Matt 11: 28-30,  Matt 26:41,  Eph. 3:20-21, Mark 9:24. 

I sometimes do it fairly extemporaneously but one that I borrow from St. Augustine is: 
God commands not impossibilities, but by commanding he suggests to you to do what you can, to ask for what is beyond your strength; and he helps you, that you may be able. 
Extemporaneously.... it usually it goes something like: Loving God, protect us from the weariness of the world, walk alongside us and defend us from slipping away into distractions that lead us away from you.   Some from the BCP are: BCP Collect for Peace and Grace p. 11 are both great. 
BCP  p. 731 Heavenly Father in whom we live and move and have our being: we humbly pray thee so to guide and govern us by thy Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our daily life we may never forget thee, but remember that we are ever walking in thy sight; through jesus Christ  our Lord. Amen. 
BCP p. 732  O Lord our heavenly Father, by whose providence the duties of men are variously ordered: Grant to us all the spirit to labour heartily to do our work in our several stations, in serving one Master and looking for one reward. Teach us to put to good account whatever talents thou hast lent to us, and enable us to redeem our time by patience and zeal; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 
BCP Collect for protection - (p. 726 and elsewhere)  Visit, we beseech thee, O Lord, this place and drive from it all the snares of the enemy; let thy holy angels dwell herein to preserve us in peace; and may thy blessing be upon us evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 
BCP p. 656 (ordering of priests)  Prevent us, O Lord, in all our doings with they most gracious favour, and further us with thy continual help that in all our works, begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify they holy name and finally by thy mercy obtain ever lasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
 I don't have my BAS here with me, but I'm sure there are a few there as well! 

The great Evagrius Ponticus describes the struggle with this most dangerous passion:
The demon of acedia, also called the noonday demon, is the most oppressive of all the demons. He attacks the monk towards the fourth hour and besieges the soul until the eighth hour. He begins by giving the impression that the sun is hardly moving, or not moving at all, and that the day has at least forty hours. After this, he continually draws the monk to his window; he forces him to go out of his cell to look at the sun and calculate how much time still separates him from the ninth hour (the hour of Vespers and the meal), and finally to look about here and there to see if some brother is not coming to see him... is a website with St. John of Cassians entire treatise on the subject.

Others who have much more eloquent prayer than mine include St. John of the Cross, St. Augustine, Cassian and Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange O.P. Henri Nouwen's The Way of the Heart has a few good prayers too.  

Thanks, Pilar.

The fact is, to start with, there will probably be a fair bit of "going through the motions," of showing up to pray when I don't feel like it—perhaps, especially when I don't feel like it.

"Could you not watch with me one hour?" Jesus said (Mt 26:40)