Although Brother Lawrence claimed to have abandoned all prayer techniques to find a way to carry on this habitual, silent and secret conversation with God, most of us find it difficult to achieve this constant conversation with God without some form of devotion. In this class, we will consider the forms of devotion—the “prayer techniques”—that have helped Christians over the years to develop that sense the presence of God. Our analysis will hinge on two categories of prayer: cataphatic and apophatic prayer. We will examine the “cataphatic” approach by learning of methods of prayer expressed in Scripture, poetry and other types of “word” prayer. We will also consider the apophatic approach, which has included wordless prayer, silence and solitude to find and unite with God.
This class will examine both approaches by reading works written by or about both ancient and modern Christian prayer exemplars, including: Gregory of Nyssa, Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Brother Lawrence, Jonathan Edwards, Simone Weil, and Howard Thurman. We will also read some of the more obscure experts on prayer, including the Eastern Orthodox monks who originated the Jesus Prayer and the practice of hesychasm, as well as the Western monk who composed the Meditationes Vita Christi and the Puritan authors of the Valley of Vision.
For credit students, the class will for five weeks from July 26 to August 23 [10 hours] and continued for 10 more hours online in a variety of interactions.
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