Keep it Short like the Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss
Stephan Joubert pulled another rabbit from his hat when he advised the readers of his site to
“Hou dit Kort” (Keep it Short). To illustrate he refers to Dr Seuss’ book “The Cat in the Hat” which consists of only 223 words (some say it is 225 words).
As usual Joubert then tries his level best to apply a mundane marvel, in this case Dr Seuss’ short version literary prowess, to the Bible when he states that “Many words must convince others; even God too. No one less than Jesus taught us that many words do not impress God. In Matthew 6 we hear that God is not fascinated with a mass of words when we pray. He knows exactly what we need. Therefore, we don’t need to overpower Him with impressive words.”
Jesus said nothing of the sort. He did not warn us against lengthy prayers as such in Matthew 6 but against praying in public places to impress people with a vain repetition of words. This is what he said:
And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. (Matthew 6:5-8).
The “much speaking” refers to a vain repetition of words which usually end up in a long session of babbling or foolish and meaningless chattering and not to long prayers in particular. And speaking of Jesus’ warning against a vain repetition of words and foolish and meaningless chattering, Stephan Joubert should rather search his own heart instead of making sweeping statements about long prayers. This man who rebukes long prayers is the very same man who endorses and supports people like Willem Nicol, Trevor Hudson and Johan Geyser who teach their church members to practice centering and contemplative prayer.
The Shortest Prayers
In contemplative prayer the practitioner focuses on a word and repeats it over and over and over for the duration of the exercise. The purpose is to clear one’s mind of outside concerns so that God’s voice may be more easily heard. Well now, centering and contemplative prayer fits Jesus’ warning in Matthew 6 like a glove. Indeed, Joubert wants you to keep your prayers so short that he advises you to truncate it to a single word and the vain repetition of that word.
The following quote comes from Stephan Joubert’s book “Jesus, ‘n Radikale Sprong” (“Jesus, a Radical Leap,” p. 199-200) in which he hails the three Emergent Musketeers who pray the shortest prayers imaginable as the New Saints of this century.
Lives filled with reflection and silent contemplation. Innovative faith communities are increasingly returning to the original roots of Christendom. Peoples’ deep need for a life changing spirituality in our hectic world is inspiring the rediscovery of precious disciplines from the early church in many places.
Reflective, apophatic prayer, as well as the spiritual reading of the Word (Lectio Divina) is once again the order of the day. The revival of retraites, pilgrimages and visits to places of prayer and solitude is indicative of this worldwide quest in Christian circles for an innermost becoming part of the character of the Living God.
The new journeys of many Christians are those big inner directed journeys. Now it concerns the journey of the soul on its way to bigger peace and rest at the feet of God. [Thomas says: The peace that surpasses all understanding Jesus gives to believers is not enough? The New Saints can give you a BIGGER peace? Poor Jesus! But don’t despair and never fear when Stephan Joubert’s three Emergent Musketeers are near. They will fill in the Jesus-gap for you with a single word. Watch out Dr Seuss. Here come the-new-short-making prayer-warrior saint’s-of-the-century.].
These quests are not only undertaken during the dark moments of the soul. No, it is also undertaken as part of peoples’ normal spiritual discipline (-s) of dedication to God. It means that the present interest in retraites is complemented with the daily practice of these principles.
Many faith communities arrange special occasions such as silent services, daily communion and smaller gatherings in order to experience God’s presence, holiness and magnitude through spiritual disciplines of silence and solitude. [Thomas says: Pagans throughout the ages have devised ways and means to invoke God’s presence. They are invoking demons and not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.).
Christian meditation and reflection on the Word in this context serve as travel guides. Lectio Divina with its beautiful facets of oratio, contemplatio, lectio and meditatio aim to make the Word of God part of the believers’ metabolism so that it may be entrenched in their hearts and lives.
Today’s new saints are those who in solitude find peace and quiet with God and manifest it in genuine ways. They are the silent voices of hope. Their own mysterious discoveries of God’s goodness is magnetic.
They are the new signposts who help people to find meaning in their lives. They are endearing fellow travellers to God’s heart that leads people into new relationships with God. People like Willem Nicol, Trevor Hudson and Johan Geyser are telling examples of this spirituality. [Thomas says: Sorry Jesus, you have missed the boat again. You are not the hope of glory as brother Paul says in Colossians 1:27. Stephan Joubert’s illustrious Three Emergent Musketeers have taken over your job. So please vacate your place at the right hand of your Father in heaven to make way for WILLEM NICOL, TREVOR HUDSON and last but not least, JOHAN GEYSER – the glorious Emergent Three Musketeers.].
The only thing these so-called new saints of hope have achieved is to teach people to disobey Jesus’ warning in Matthew 6. Instead of heeding his warning, they are encouraging people to use a single word or phrase and to repeat it over and over and over and over in their prayers until they experience God’s presence. The twelve apostles and Paul never said something as unbiblical and dangerous as the following:
“There are people who on a daily basis experience what significance the Bible has for their spirit, . . . It is understandable that many of us do not enjoy the Bible any longer . . . especially the free spirits who are interested in meditation feel that the Bible is too restrictive.” Whatever your belief is, silence helps you to open yourself more to it (your faith convictions) and to be formed by them (Willem Nicol: “Gebed van die Hart” [Willem Nicol, Prayer of the Heart”], p. 12).
Non-Christians are also invited, especially the ones who are interested in meditation. Many religions experience the value of silence in different ways, and insofar it is good, it actually does come from God, so that our experiences should open paths to one another and to Him (Ibid, p. 14).
Yet, Stephan Joubert calls them the new saints and signposts of hope. Really? At least I have managed to keep my post short and limit it to only about 1335 words which for me is a miracle in itself because most of my posts are usually very long.