Introductory Note:

This article by Richard Foster was first published in the March 1972 edition of Quaker Life.

I HAVE JUST RETURNED from three days of prayer and study at a Fran­cis­can retreat cen­ter on the Pacif­ic Coast. The rewards of such an endeav­or are stamped deep with­in the secret sanc­tu­ary. It is the hid­den work of God, plac­ing an unde­ni­able brand upon the inte­ri­or life. Some men would repu­di­ate such a pas­sion for the life of devo­tion because it smacks of nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry pietism. They are abbre­vi­at­ed men who have failed to see that the life of faith deter­mines the life of ser­vice. Chris­t­ian peo­ple can­not afford to for­get the deeply spir­i­tu­al nature of their war­fare, even when the demon­ic forces are incar­nat­ed in very con­crete forms and institutions.

Pri­or to the com­mis­sion to go, Jesus instruct­ed his dis­ci­ples to wait. We, too, must wait if we expect to go in pow­er. Any­one can go, but few there are that go in pow­er. In the open­ing vers­es of Acts we dis­cov­er Jesus’ impress­ing upon his dis­ci­ples the absolute neces­si­ty of wait­ing in Jerusalem for the promise of the Holy Spir­it. So they wait­ed — for ten days! — a response which is some kind of a mir­a­cle in itself, for none of the dis­ci­ples was not­ed for their patience. The results were stu­pen­dous! Though our infor­ma­tion is sketchy, it is not hard to imag­ine some of the issues with which they had to deal. Cer­tain­ly they were forced to work through the hos­til­i­ties that had poi­soned the fel­low­ship. Undoubt­ed­ly they learned the deep­er ways of prayer. Clear­ly they had learned to wait. The resul­tant impact changed the course of history. 

Many con­cerned Chris­tians today lament lack of pow­er in the con­tem­po­rary church. One sure rea­son is that most Chris­tians have nev­er con­sid­ered that they must expe­ri­ence any­thing remote­ly akin to the wait at Jerusalem. They run here and there in a des­per­ate attempt to keep the eccle­si­as­ti­cal machin­ery oiled. They feel mild­ly uneasy about giv­ing whole blocks of time to prayer and study. Some­how Chris­tians feel that such efforts are tak­ing them away from the real work of the King­dom. Have they not learned that a shal­low life gives birth to a shal­low min­istry? How com­plete­ly they have been indoc­tri­nat­ed by this world’s sys­tem! Sur­face roots pro­duce dwarfed fruits. 

Our Quak­er Meet­ings will remain essen­tial­ly inef­fec­tive until the gath­ered com­mu­ni­ty sees the neces­si­ty of their Jerusalem wait. At our own Meet­ing we are learn­ing how trans­form­ing this can be. Once the neces­si­ty of this expe­ri­ence has gripped us, peo­ple have been gath­er­ing spon­ta­neous­ly for prayer, study and wor­ship. Most of the gath­er­ings are in homes. Some dis­cuss mutu­al needs and pray. Oth­ers are study-ori­ent­ed. Still oth­ers accent singing and rejoic­ing. In all, the fruits of love, joy and pow­er are emerg­ing. Often groups will go for five and six hours at a stretch. It is from such expe­ri­ences that avenues of ser­vice and min­istry emerge. We have only scraped the sur­face, but we have expe­ri­enced enough to know that we are on the right track. A gold mine of spir­i­tu­al pow­er awaits those hardy enough for the discipline. 

The form of such a wait will vary with the peo­ple — its impor­tance is cru­cial. May God give you an adven­tur­ous wait!

Pub­lished in Quak­er Life, March 1972.

Art­work: Eccle­sia” by Khrysty­na Kvyk. Used by per­mis­sion of Icon Art Gallery.

Text First Published February 1972 · Last Featured on June 2022

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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