We’ve just started a new course at Knaphill: Sacred Rhythms is a DVD course that abbreviates the book of the same name by Ruth Haley Barton, an American retreat leader and spiritual director. I’ve been reading her regular emails from The Transforming Center for some while. I’m about half way through the original book.
Why are we doing it? Because people asked at our annual meeting in the Spring for teaching on prayer. Barton says something striking about that: it is young Christians who typically do not ask how to pray, because they get on with it. As we become more mature, we hit more obstacles in prayer and realise we don’t know what we thought we knew. Ironically, it is the more experienced Christians who may have to come to the point of honesty, asking, “Teach us to pray.”
We had an excellent first meeting this week. The opening chapter or session locates ‘desire’ as a way into discovering why we need to develop the habits of spiritual disciplines that form a rule of life, in which we focus on Christ.
That sounds strange, even wrong, at first. However, Barton begins from the times in the Gospels when Jesus asks needy people like Bartimaeus questions such as, “What do you want me to do for you?” We could come up with selfish answers to that, or the question could expose honourable desires. Yet even if we come up with answers from sinful motives, these are exposed in the light of Christ and that is a first step to coming into a better place. Like Bartimaeus, we may need to ‘throw off our cloak’ to press towards what God has for us – we may need to let go of certain things that are not always sins in order to walk in the way of Christ.
At this early stage, I recommend the course to you. As a taster, here are the opening three minutes of it.