My job is to pray.
After graduating from Redeemer University College, I joined the staff of the Greater Ontario House of Prayer (GOHOP), an ecumenical urban monastery rooted in Hamilton, Ont. As a new monastic community, we live out rhythms of life that have been embodied and taught within historic monastic communities. For us, this looks like developing church leaders, growing relational connections and cultivating prayer in the city.
At the heart of our ministry is a prayer room where GOHOP’s staff and volunteers spend time interceding and being in Jesus’ presence. At any given time, the prayer room is populated with one or more faithful members of our team.
Why are we so committed to hiding away to pray?
Paul writes that “we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3). As we prayerfully contemplate the Lord’s glory, we are transformed into his image, like Moses, whose “face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord” (Ex 34:29).
GOHOP’s prayer room is in the basement of 541 Eatery & Exchange, a social enterprise cafe designed to be a blessing to its neighbourhood around Barton Street, a particularly vulnerable and marginalized community in the city. When we come upstairs to the Eatery and find neighbours caught up in poverty, addiction and loneliness, we aim to interact with these friends of ours with “radiant faces” like Moses. As a community, we then become our own living proof that there is a radiant God who can and does transform us, his people.
I give myself over to rhythms of prayer because in the Western world today, one of the most effective apologetics we can give is our own transformed selves, and sitting in the presence of Jesus is transformational. As Tim Keller notes, “[Prayer] is the main way we experience deep change – the reordering of our loves.” Fewer people want to hear the logic of our faith, as logic is beginning to hold less ground in our contemporary cultural rhetoric. Instead, they will know we are his disciples by our love for one another (John 13:35). Developing rhythms of “breathing in” the Spirit equips us to “breathe out” the fruit of the Spirit, and this fruit will be proof of God’s goodness to the world.
Sit at his Feet
There are well-intentioned church folks – in the media or in the news – who do not look like Jesus. Some are numbed to the incomprehensible scope of the Gospel; to them it has become “domesticated,” as Lesslie Newbigin notes. Some have grown tolerant to the massive needs of the world. To others, the Gospel has even become a tool to gain power or to treat people who are different as “other.”
To be effective carriers of the Gospel, Christians need to embody the fruits of the Spirit. “The kingdom is exciting because of the King,” as Craig Bartholemew says, “and without a living relationship with the King, religion will be about many things but will lack that missional vision of the kingdom” (Contours of the Kuyperian Tradition). The kingdom becomes exciting again when we get to know the King.
Mission is “the whole church bringing the whole gospel to the whole world” (Laussane Covenant). If I position myself in a stance of willingness to be transformed, which is done through rhythms of prayer, I can become a holistic, living embodiment of a piece of the Gospel. I can begin to “practice resurrection” (Wendell Berry) in my daily life, and so become an apologetic to my neighbourhood and to the world that indeed, all things, my own self included, are being transformed.
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