Thanks For The Privilege Of Communion With God
Making Eye Contact With God
For nearly 20 years Al Janssen worked closely with Brother Andrew, the Founder of Open Doors. Together they traveled to Muslim countries, wrote six books, met with political leaders and spoke to ministry donors. This blog tells the story of their friendship and some of the many lessons Al learned from this beloved mission leader.
‘We take the broken bread into a broken world.’
Today is Persecuted Church Sunday in the Netherlands. Here in America, we’ll observe a similar day on November 10 this year called the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP).
In 2009, Brother Andrew and I celebrated IDOP with the persecuted church. My life will never be the same.I’ll never forget being at a secret location in one of the countries in the top 10 of our World Watch List. We sat with more than 30 church leaders as the facilitator read the familiar words of 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, who are called by name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face….”
She also read verse 15, the words of God saying, “Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.” Then she challenged us with these words: “Today, let us make eye contact with God.”
The Heart Cry of God’s People
After singing several hymns and psalms, we heard reports from a community where three months earlier churches were burned, homes destroyed and a dozen Christians were killed by a fundamentalist mob.
A pastor read words from a family whose daughter was raped: “We request you accept our appeal drenched with tears to give us back our lives. For we have been buried alive with our child.” There was a time of intense prayer for Christians in this community.
Then we sang again. One of the hymns was so melancholy, so intense in emotion, that though I couldn’t understand the language I could feel the heart cry of these people and joined in their groans, their longing for redemption. Paul’s words in Romans 8:22-25 took on new meaning, the need for the Spirit to help us in our weakness as we pray.
Praying With Shepherds
We then broke into smaller groups for two hours of more intimate sharing and intercession. There were nine leaders in my group, and all bared their souls.
One pastor in a village told how three families in his small congregation of 20 families had, under financial inducement, converted to Islam.
But when they tried to arrange marriages for their children, they discovered that while their daughters were eagerly spoken for, no Muslim family would allow their daughters to marry these “Christian” sons.
“These families now want to return to the church,” the pastor reported. “But the Muslim leaders say they can’t convert from Islam or they will be killed. We want to welcome these families back and are trying to support them.” We joined hands to pray for this pastor and his flock and for the three families that had wandered away lost sheep.
Another leader served a far-flung congregation that could never meet together, which required him to travel constantly. He was away from his family for three weeks every month. Because he had to pass through many security checkpoints, he no longer carried Bibles and other literature for his flock.
“I can only give them whatever Word is hidden in my heart,” he said. We gathered around this faithful shepherd and laid hands on him as we prayed for him and his ministry.
There were three women in our group. Two were wives of pastors and shared about the pressures they felt on their families. A third managed a shelter for women who suffered from severe abuse because of their faith.
These women were taught the basics of Christian discipleship and a vocational skill that allowed them to earn a living.
This leader faced several challenges, and so we prayed for her and this ministry, as well as for the many other Christian women who suffer abuse and are unable to find the help of a center this.
One Body, One Church
After six hours of prayer, we concluded our day together by celebrating Holy Communion. Brother Andrew gave a brief homily before we partook of the bread and cup. His words still resonate with me today: “Remember, we take the broken bread into a broken world.”
The pastor officiating served each leader a wafer of bread, snapping it in two as he said, “The body of Christ broken for you.” I followed with the chalice, serving each congregant with the words: “The blood of Christ shed for you.”
By the end of the service, I felt in my soul a deeper understanding of communion. These were my brothers and sisters. Christ died for them, for me, for all broken people. In Christ, we are truly one body; and on this day I had the privilege of sharing a little in their suffering.
Read all of Al Janssen’s posts in this weekly series here.
Prayers After Holy Communion (EN)
Read in English according to the Jordanville Prayer Book, 1986. Courtesy for POMOG parishioners only. Other visitors are encouraged to purchase these prayers at the Hermitage of the Holy Cross web-site.
Glory to Thee, O God, Glory to Thee, O God, Glory to Thee, O God.
Prayer of Thanksgiving, 1
I thank Thee, O Lord my God, that Thou hast not rejected me, a sinner, but hast vouchsafed me to be a communicant of Thy Holy Things. I thank Thee that Thou hast vouchsafed me, the unworthy, to partake of Thy most pure and heavenly Gifts.
But, O Master, Lover of mankind, Who for our sake didst die and didst rise again, and didst bestow upon us these dread and life-giving Mysteries for the well-being and sanctification of our souls and bodies, grant that these may be even unto me for the healing of both soul and body, for the averting of everything hostile, for the enlightenment of the eyes of my heart, for the peace of the powers of my soul, for faith unashamed, for love unfeigned, for the fullness of wisdom, for the keeping of Thy commandments, for an increase of Thy divine grace, and for the attainment of Thy kingdom; that being preserved by them in Thy holiness, I may remember Thy grace always, and no longer live for myself, but for Thee, our Master and Benefactor; and thus when I shall have departed this life in hope of life eternal, I may attain unto everlasting rest, where the sound of them that keep festival is unceasing, and the delight is endless of them that behold the ineffable beauty of Thy countenance. For Thou art the true desire and the unutterable gladness of them that love Thee, O Christ our God, and all creation doth hymn Thee unto the ages. Amen.
Prayer 2, of Basil the Great
O Master Christ God, King of the ages and Creator of all things, I thank Thee for all the good things which Thou hast bestowed upon me, and for the communion of Thy most pure and life creating Mysteries.
I pray Thee, therefore, O Good One and Lover of mankind: Keep me under Thy protection and in the shadow of Thy wings; and grant me, even until my last breath, to partake worthily, with a pure conscience, of Thy Holy Things, unto the remission of sins and life eternal.
For Thou art the Bread of life, the Source of holiness, the Giver of good things; and unto Thee do we send up glory, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Prayer 3, Verses of Metaphrastes
O Thou Who givest me willingly Thy Flesh as food, Thou Who art fire that doth consume the unworthy, let me not be scorched, O my Creator. But rather, enter Thou into my members, into all my joints, my reins, my heart. Burn up the thorns of all my sins. Purify my soul, sanctify my thoughts.
Strengthen my substance together with my bones. Enlighten my simple five senses. Nail down the whole of me with the fear of Thee. Ever protect, preserve, and keep me from every soul-corrupting deed and word. Purify, cleanse, and adorn me; make me comely, give me understanding, and enlighten me.
Show me to be the dwelling-place of Thy Spirit alone, and no longer the habitation of sin; that from me as Thine abode through the entry of Communion, every evildoer, every passion may flee as from fire.As intercessors I offer unto Thee all the saints, the commanders of the bodiless hosts, Thy Forerunner, the wise Apostles, and further, Thine undefiled, pure Mother, whose entreaties do Thou accept, O my compassionate Christ, and make Thy servant a child of light.
For Thou alone art our sanctification, O Good One, and the radiance of our souls, and unto Thee as God and Master, we all send up glory, as is meet, every day.
O Lord Jesus Christ our God, may Thy holy Body be unto me for life eternal, and Thy precious Blood for the remission of sins; and may this Eucharist be unto me for joy, health, and gladness. And at Thy dread Second Coming vouchsafe me, a sinner, to stand at the right hand of Thy glory, through the intercessions of Thy most pure Mother and of all the saints.
Prayer 5, to the Most Holy Theotokos
O most holy Lady Theotokos, light of my darkened soul, my hope, protection, refuge, consolation, my joy: I thank thee that thou hast vouchsafed me, who am unworthy, to be a partaker of the most pure Body and precious Blood of thy Son.
O thou who gavest birth to the True Light, do thou enlighten the spiritual eyes of my heart; thou who gavest birth to the Source of immortality, revive me who am dead in sin; thou who art the lovingly-compassionate Mother of the merciful God, have mercy on me, and grant me compunction and contrition in my heart, and humility in my thoughts, and the recall of my thoughts from captivity. And vouchsafe me, until my last breath, to receive without condemnation the sanctification of the most pure Mysteries, for the healing of both soul and body; and grant me tears of repentance and confession, that I may hymn and glorify thee all the days of my life, for blessed and most glorious art thou unto the ages. Amen.
Prayer of St. Symeon
Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, O Master, according to Thy word; for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples, a light of revelation for the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. (Thrice)
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
O Most Holy Trinity, have mercy on us. O Lord, blot out our sins. O Master, pardon our iniquities. O Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities for Thy name’s sake.
Lord, have mercy. (Thrice)
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Our Father, Who art in the heavens, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom: Troparion, Tone 8
Grace shining forth from thy mouth a beacon hath illumined the universe, and disclosed to the world treasures of uncovetousness, and shown us the heights of humility; but while instructing by thy words, O Father John Chrysostom, intercede with the Word, Christ our God, to save our souls.
Glory to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
Kontakion, Tone 6
From the heavens hast thou received divine grace and by thy lips thou dost teach all to worship the One God in Trinity, O John Chrysostom, all-blessed righteous one. Rightly do we acclaim thee, for thou art a teacher revealing things divine.
Liturgy of St. Basil the Great: Troparion, Tone 1
Thy fame hath gone forth into all the earth, which hath received thy word. Thereby thou hast divinely taught the Faith; thou hast made manifest the nature of created things; thou hast made the moral life of men a royal priesthood. O Basil, our righteous father, intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.
Glory to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
Kontakion, Tone 4
Thou didst prove to be an unshakable foundation of the Church, giving to all mortals an inviolate lordship, and sealing it with thy doctrines, O righteous Basil, revealer of heavenly things.
Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
O protection of Christians that cannot be put to shame, O mediation unto the Creator unfailing, disdain not the suppliant voices of sinners; but be thou quick, O good one, to help us who in faith cry unto thee; hasten to intercession and speed thou to make supplication, thou who dost ever protect, O Theotokos, them that honour thee.
Lord, have mercy. (Twelve times)
More honourable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, who without corruption gavest birth to God the Word, the very Theotokos, thee do we magnify.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Through the prayers of our holy fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
Thank God for “White Privilege” in Missions?
Someone asked me to speak more directly to the issue of “white privilege.” Previously, I responded to an American-born Chinese woman who complained of white privilege among missionaries. My article highlighted two big ideas.
We need to rethink how to communicate ideas about “white privilege” and related subjects. We need to define our terms clearly. We should have a generous spirit, particularly when speaking about missionaries who intentionally serve people from other cultures.
Not everything can be justly blamed on “white privilege.” At various times and places, we are all on the outside looking in. For any situation that troubles us, we can probably imagine 10 contributing factors besides skin color.
If we’re not careful, we will unwittingly…
- perpetuate division and resentment
- accept the hermeneutic that hurt feelings validate truth
- close ourselves to correction and constructive dialogue
In this post, I want to address “white privilege” head on. And I want to do so by looking at Scripture, something not always seen in these conversations.
“White privilege” is a fact, not a problem
The term “white privilege” does more harm than good. It could simply describe a fact––white people enjoy certain privileges. Or it might subtly accuse people of discrimination, even if it’s unintentional. The latter often happens when we talk about what others do to us, how others ignore us, or why others make us feel marginalized.
“White privilege” is a fact in many circumstances. But it’s not everywhere. Don’t confuse America and the rest of the world. In many contexts, being white grants you the privilege of being killed first. In many environments, Asian voices are given more access and credibility than white people, simply due to skin color.
This discussion has a fundamental problem. It focuses on a narrow spectrum of privilege. Why be so selective? We could also talk about “Western privilege.” Having a passport from America, Canada and Australia gives you many similar privileges, regardless of skin color. What about privileges wealth or gender?
Stop and ask yourself, “What are you really against?”
It is not privilege. It’s prejudice.
I agree “white privilege” exists in much of the American church. But I doubt most people want to take away those privileges. Instead, we want everyone to enjoy the same privileges.
Using the name “privilege” when we mean prejudice only perpetuates resentment. If we confuse the two, people will naturally become defensive.
From Blaming to Blessing
Rather than linger on the fact of “white privilege” (or any other type), we should pay more attention to our response. Only then can we move beyond blaming to being a blessing. What if we take a different perspective on the subject, one that can produce positive responses?
Let’s start with a constructive definition of “white privilege.” Kyle Howard has one of the best I’ve seen:
By the way, that definition comes from a brother with black skin and an Asian wife. I recommend you read his post on the topic.
Flickr/OTA PhotosThis perspective gets us beyond the destructive cycle of shame, blame, apathy, exploitation, guilt, and reverse discrimination. If you are born white, “white privilege” by itself should not elicit guilt feelings. Rather, you should be thankful!
Kyle is correct to say,
The fundamental question is how will the privilege be stewarded? Will it be used for self-advancement or Kingdom advancement? Pastor, your people, need to understand that trying to argue against white privilege is Paul arguing against the privilege of Roman Citizenship. He never did! He embraced it, used it, and advanced the Gospel with it.
This is a helpful starting point. He directs our attention to the Bible. Where do we see anything “white privilege” in the Bible?
“Jewish Privilege” & “Roman Privilege”
In the Bible, we see something similar to “white privilege.” It is often called “grace.”
First, the people of Israel enjoyed many advantages as a result of birth not given to others. Paul celebrates God’s grace in Romans.
Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. (Rom 3:1–2)
Later he adds,
They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen (9:4–5)
To Gentiles, Paul writes,
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. (Eph 2:11–12)
Similarly, cf. Ps 147:19–20; Deut 26:18–19 and others.
Should we bemoan Israel’s advantages in history? Were they not blessed in order to be a blessing to all nations? In that process, Jews enjoyed the privilege of having God’s word and presence among them in a way that Gentiles did not.
Second, Paul used “Roman privilege” multiple times (cf. Acts 16:16–40, 21:39ff; 25:12ff). One scholar summarizes what this meant for Paul.
The importance of being a Roman citizen in NT times was that one was, to a degree at any rate, a member of the governing community––in many ways occupying a position analogous to that of the British citizen during the hey-day of the Raj. The Roman citizen was privileged.In theory he could travel anywhere without problems, being everywhere protected by the Roman law. He was not subjected to the local law unless he consented (though such consent would be usual in business), and he could take matters into his own courts when these were sitting.
He owed allegiance to Rome, and Rome would protect him.
Paul wisely took advantage of his privileges. In Philippi, he shames the city officials when they freed Paul and Silas. Acts 16:17–39 states,
But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.
” The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city.
This move effectively served to vindicate Paul and the church from slanderous charges of lawlessness.
In Acts 21, the Roman tribune thought Paul was a revolutionary. Paul replies, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no obscure city. I beg you, permit me to speak to the people” (21:39).
Paul’s pedigree and the education (21:40–22:3) not only afford him the chance to address the crowd; he was also equipped to handle the whirlwind of conversations to follow (before the Jewish council, Felix the Governor, Claudius, Festus, among others)
Of course, Paul famously appeals to Caesar in Acts 25:12, which saved his skin from the Jews who conspired to kill him. In the years that follow, Paul is given numerous opportunities for fruitful ministry.
Because he wisely used his “Roman privilege”, he spent his prison time in Rome “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” (Acts 28:31).Praise God for His grace. May we use whatever privileges we have for the sake of Christ’s honor.
In the next post, I’ll offer a few suggested ways people can act to use our privileges (whether economic, gender, skin color, education, etc.) in a ministry setting.
Until then, enjoy this clip from Seinfeld that reminds me of the “Asian privilege” that also exists in mission circles. Francis Lyall, “Romans Law in the Writings of Paul: Aliens and Citizens” Evangelical Quarterly 48, no. 1 (Jan–Mar 1976): 10.
It is Possible to Have Ongoing Communion with God Through Unceasing Prayer
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While praying for a friend, I saw she needed God’s peace and rest and I felt led to write her a letter to encourage her. As I wrote, I received a revelation about contemplative/ interior prayer that I would to share with you. I discovered a life of continual experience of and communion with God, where the refreshing my friend needed can always be found!
The letter is below. It’s kind of lengthy, but fairly practical and I know it will be helpful if you want to live in a place of continual experience of God and His love.
Letter to a Tired and Troubled Friend
I wanted to let you know what the Father showed me for you and give you a couple of verses specifically regarding prayer and experiencing God more deeply.
I believe this letter will be helpful to you as it is full of practical insights I’ve gleaned through years of prayer and observation. But, you don’t have to believe a lick of it. Test it for yourself.
Go to God and ask Him about it, and trust Him!
- Meet God in the secret place of your heart. Turn to the Lord ‘within.‘ (Matthew 6:6; Colossians 1:27). This has revolutionized my life! My prayer life is honestly so much better now that I meet God consistently in this way.
Saint Augustine said, as one who already knew Jesus, “I wasted many years of prayer searching for God without before I realized He was within.”
- It’s in our hearts that the Lord gives us intimate, experiential knowledge of His glory – who He is – as we meet Christ there.
“For God who said, ‘Let light shine darkness’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)
- Embrace Prayer of the Quiet / Heart. This has been widely practiced by saints of God across centuries. This prayer is described in Philippians 4:6-7.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Prayer of the Quiet / Heart
As soon as you start to pray or talk or commune, a relational process begins. God is not slow to answer and He brings up stuff that is important to you so you don’t have to bear it.
For example, He will remind you of little things that you may consider your mind is wandering. But, He’s immensely practical and so graciously helpful.
Just have a pen handy and write those things down for afterwards and entrust them to His care and the empowerment of His grace. It’s honoring to him, and helpful for you!
Know this: the righteous live by the faith of God, what He believes. All of life is meant to be lived by grace. Work. Marriage. Friendships. Raising children.
Exercise! Anything, you name it, is meant to be lived in and experienced by the propelling influence of grace.
Salvation encompasses the totality of life, and it is not a work! It is the gift of God, so that no one may boast except in Him who has done and does it for us!
The new creation is in Eden and Psalm 23. That’s what the Gospel restores us to! Intimate communion with God! We needlessly take upon ourselves so many burdens that we are not meant to bear.
Our Father is not a hard taskmaster. He leads us into the path of righteousness. He feeds us in green pastures. He makes us lie down by quiet waters. He restores our souls.
He protects us and gives us a feast in the presence of our enemies.Prayer of the Quiet / Heart is casting the cares of the day onto the Lord. To make this extremely practical, think of this as familiarly sharing your day with your spouse / best friend / roommate. Once that’s done, you’ll typically feel a sense of release or rest knowing you’ve got it off your chest and have been heard and known.
Lots of people stop there. But, this is just the beginning, and where prayer becomes even better.
The second part, of Prayer of the Quiet/ Heart is found in verse 7 – “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in your union with Christ Jesus.
” This is what I really want to talk about for you. This is where you’ll really feel that needed rest, and deeper connection.
Find God’s Peace and Experience His Joy
After your experiential connection is reestablished with the Lord (think of this as your emotional and personal connection; there are no walls up, everything is made known, and there is total vulnerability and trust. You’re on the same page, completely and the Lord begins to fill you with his love and peace. This is where we begin to enter into rest and experience the refreshing the comes from His manifest presence. (Acts 3:20).
Think of this cuddling with Daddy, just enjoying being together. No words necessary. Just enjoying presence. You might see faces here. Just ask God what He wants for them, and say ‘Amen.’ It’s that simple.
This is where I pray for people.
The Lord brings people to my attention that are on His heart, and I say “Yes and Amen” to what He wants for them, and sometimes communicate it to let them know they are known and loved by Him, this letter.
There are several more stages of prayer after this, but practicing the Prayer of Quiet – a still, affectionate attention to the Lord in your heart is the gateway to a life of unceasing prayer and communion (they become almost the same thing) with God, providing extraordinary fulfillment and rest – all you are meant to have and live , not for. This is God’s explicit will: “Enter my rest.”
If you start this type of prayer you’ll find you can begin to practice it everywhere, all the time, and it is most helpful in your daily life, because you are continually loving Him and receiving grace from Him for your daily tasks. Also pray, “Lord, let me become more aware of your presence” and you will begin to feel God Himself warming within your chest (where Christ is seated on your heart) and your belly will flow rivers of living water.
Perhaps a weighty presence may start to form on you. Put all your focus there on that place where the warming is. That feeling is God Himself. Just remain there for 15 to 20 minutes as friends. This really is prayer.
You don’t have to say anything, just learn to be with the Lord and enjoy Him. This stage of prayer is simultaneously about learning to let go of the ‘have to’s’ and learning to enjoy simply being with God without obligation to do anything.
He’s sure enjoying being with you.If you open this door of prayer / communion with Jesus, you must allow yourself to experience joy and happiness, especially when and where you may consider it inappropriate because there in that place, joy and hope and gladness are actually the most appropriate! It is a living display of faith and expectation and hope in God to work all things for good for us and His purposes.
Isaiah says, “He will make us joyful in his house of prayer.” You’re his house. As you turn your heart to Him in prayer you will begin to experience “joy inexpressible and full of glory.
” How this joy wells up within you is superbly natural, because it is a normal part of our nature that Jesus has restored. Not experiencing this is actually abnormal. Our conception of what we call the “world,” or reality, is upside down.
The Kingdom of God is the one right side up, and that’s the one we live in. It is not vice versa.
Turn your heart to Him, become aware of His presence within you, and you’ll simply begin to experience this truth from within: “You lead me in the path of righteousness. In your presence is fullness of joy and at your right hand are overflowing pleasures evermore.”