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Jun 24 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 21, 2015 – Matthew 6:5-8, 19-25, 31-33

Pulling Ourselves Together

When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetitions as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Matthew 6:5-8

Intro: The spiritual skill we will consider today is Recollection

Some writers see Recollection as preparation for prayer and others as a form of prayer
– but this is not a serious or heated debate
• the moment you prepare to pray, you are already praying
– to get an overview of Recollection, I want to hop through Matthew chapter 6

This is the middle section of Jesus’ “Sermon On the Mount”

What Jesus is doing in this sermon, is leading his disciples into a genuine life in God
– to get there, he has to guide them between two failed alternatives
• they were “not to be like the hypocrites”  or “the Gentiles” (vv. 5 & 7)
• the prayers he describes are inconsistent with a real encounter with God
◦ he is our Father “ who is in secret,” so that’s where we meet him – not on a public stage
◦ he is our Father and he already knows our needs, so it isn’t necessary to pile up words
• the genuine prayer is a real conversation with God
– at this point, Jesus taught them the “Lord’s Prayer,” which begins with “Our Father”
• we do not converse with our Father as stage actors or beggars
◦ but as children with a loving parent

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
 Matthew 6:19-25

Jesus is concerned with divided loyalty
– notice how verse 19 works on us: the potential loss of earthly possessions can stir up anxiety
• yet anxiety is exactly what he wants us to live without
• the solution is to transfer our treasures to heaven
◦ having our treasures in heaven draws our hearts to heaven
◦ this gives us an entirely new perspective — one that is free of worry over worldly “things”
– once our hearts are oriented to heaven, our bodies need to be adjusted to the new reality
• the eye (or sight) is what admits light into body
◦ “clear” translates a word that means “single” – that is, focused on one thing
◦ St. James described the opposite condition:

A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways (Jas. 1:8)
– and this is why the psalmist prayed:
Unite my heart to fear Your name. (Ps. 86:11)

• it is like having two masters – you can’t serve both
– “For this reason” connects verse 25 with verse 24
• in other words, anxiety is service to wealth (or Mammon–i.e., materialism, as if it were a god)

Do not worry then, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear for clothing?” For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:31-33

I believe this is the central lesson Jesus wished to teach
– he wanted them to be clear regarding what they were to “seek first”
• it is as if he said, “Everything comes together around this focal point”

Now you know the essence of Recollection

It will become obvious that “recollection” as used for prayer is different from its normal use
– normally to recollect has to do with memory or the act of remembering
• this is still implied, but it is not the primary meaning
◦ we can see how memory works as Recollection in several Old Testament examples
◦ for instance, Jonah’s prayer:

While I was fainting away,
I remembered the LORD,

And my prayer came to You,
Into Your holy temple. 
(Jonah 2:7)

• earlier in his prayer-poem, Jonah was tossed around and tormented
◦ remembering is what brought him back to God and God’s salvation
– but when Recollection first appeared in Christian spirituality,  a Latin word was used
• it meant “to gather again” or “re-collect” (what was scattered)

We know that our brains can go 100 directions at once
– every sixty seconds we take in 10,000 times more information bytes than we can process  consciously
• the thoughts we do process are often fragmented
◦ our brains don’t usually try to fit them together (unless we’re focused on a specific task)
• our religious thoughts also swirl around in this mental soup
the disjointed self cannot pray
◦ (I am going to resist the temptation to qualify this statement with words like “effectively,” etc.)
– we could say, our minds are sometimes dismembered
• to put our minds back together is to re-member them
◦ we reassemble our thoughts around one central idea
• this is the practice of recollection
◦ it is coming to prayer with a single eye
◦ in Paul’s theological terminology it is

taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Co. 10:5)

Until now, we’ve been skimming the surface of Recollection

In Recollection we do not try to pull all our thoughts together
– rather, we pull our attention away from all our thoughts to focus awareness on one central point
• we shift attention from the many distracting things to awareness of the one necessary thing
◦ we “seek first” God and his kingdom
– what is required from us is an act of the will — a very important piece of this practice
• this is exactly how God wants us to exercise the free will he has given us
◦ he wants us to use our free will to choose him

Several of my friends have found Thomas Keating’s teaching on Centering Prayer helpful
– basically, the goal is to rest mindfully in God’s presence
• the heart of centering prayer is our intention to “consent to God’s presence and action within us.”
– to begin your pray, all you need do is ask, “Why am I here?”
• this helps us to clarify our intention
• aware of our intention, we now have a focal point for Recollection

One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD
And to meditate in His temple. (Ps. 27:4)
Confused and upset over the prosperity of the wicked, the psalmist says:
When I pondered to understand this,
It was troublesome in my sight
Until I came into the sanctuary of God;
Then I perceived their end. (Ps. 73:16-17)
(“sanctuary” is the space where our perspective is renewed)

We only have space for two more observations

The only way to practice Recollection is in the here and now
– we cannot wait for a special season in life, or the next retreat, or for things to quiet down, or a spiritual feeling, or inspiration
• we may never enjoy any of those luxuries
– it is possible that one day we may be forced into Recollection,
• when our lives in the here and now become overwhelming, chaotic, and confusing
• in Hebrews, chapters 3-4, God’s rest is not “someday,” but “Today”
Not: “Someday I will deepen my prayer life”
But: “Today I will pray as best I can”

“Here”: my body in this geographical space
– with all its sensations – itches, aches, weaknesses, and so on
this place and conditions of this place
◦ hot/cold, comfort/discomfort, quiet/noisy
• the circumstances that frame this place
◦ prosperity/poverty, harmony/hostility, healthy/ill

“Now”: simply the moment when moving from this breath to next
– prayer brings all of the stuff of this present moment to God

It is not only our thoughts that are recollected into God
– but also everything going on in our bodies
• because the body can be a source of ongoing distraction, we must learn to relax
• there are simple exercises we can easily learn in order to calm our bodies
– in our brains there are neurons (brain cells) with short axons that connect to local circuits
• but there are also neurons with very long axons that connect with other structures in the brain
◦ these neurons enable our brains to integrate sensations, thoughts, body movements, etc.
• the body is constantly sending signals to the brain and we can bring awareness to some of them
◦ in this way, we can integrate body states with brain states and present our total selves to God
(cf. Romans 12:1 and 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)

Recollection is one way that God brings us to wholeness and integrity
– in Recollection, God and his grace meet us in our intention

Conc: Once, when reading Psalm 131, I asked myself:

“What is the difference between a nursing infant and a weaned child?”
– nursing infants are sometimes desperate to eat and feed frenetically
• the weaned child lies in the mother’s arms for love, not food and is therefore at rest

Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me. 
(Ps. 131:2)

This is the Recollected soul

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