Nathaniel Martin sailed with his friend and fellow-naturalist Stephen Maturin on two long sea voyages in Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series, first as the ship's chaplain and later as Maturin's assistant surgeon. Never much of a fist at sermonizing, Martin took to writing and publishing impolitic tracts that offended the Royal Navy Board and prevented him from returning as a chaplain.
Martin lost an eye to an owl, and, as long as Martin's eye was single, O'Brian let him rival Captain Jack Aubrey for Maturin's time and friendship. Martin married between voyages, however, and his newfound obsession with providing for his family began to make him tedious company for Maturin. (Banality is the worst symptom a character can present with in these novels.) Martin's overheated conscience led him to an end straight out of Hawthorne, with whom he shared his first name.
These are the sermons he never wrote.
“Teach us to pray,” a student asks. So Jesus compares God to an unloving friend. He loans bread, but he doesn’t give it. He loans bread to his friend not because he’s a friend but because he’s pestered.
Later, teaching on prayer again, Jesus compares God to an unjust judge. The judge gives justice not because he’s a judge – he owns that he neither fears God nor respects men – but because he’s pestered.
We get these comparisons, but we don’t get the contrasts. As a result, our prayer is based not on friendship or justice but on magic and importunity.
Henri Nouwen may be the gentlest writer imaginable, a nurturer of the inner person. His writing, like the prayer he advocates, “descends with the mind into the heart,” to borrow from Russian mystic Theophan the Recluse. Nouwen’s more devotional writings offer his readers a hand in the painful self-discovery he and fellow Catholic writer Thomas […]
A real devotional book is one that you can live with year after year and that never stales or never fails to speak to some needs in your life. Douglas V. Steere wrote those words near the end of Prayer and Worship, one of a handful of devotional books he authored. By Steere’s definition, Prayer and Worship […]
These generalizations about the Tanakh – its proper name – don’t quite hold for the latest books, Ezekiel and especially Daniel, which betray a great deal of Iranian influence and thus should really be classed more with the intertestamental apocrypha and pseudepigrapha. NOTE: This is a draft post, subject to further refinement. These reasons are […]