How a driven performer has found healing in a mystical prayer. (A Reflection on the Anchor Prayer)

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I rest in faith, trusting Father.
I walk by faith, following Jesus.
I hear in faith, obeying Spirit.
In You, I remain.

These 22 words have shaped me over the past two years.

They have become how I “pray without ceasing.” They are often a diving board into deeper conversation with the Spirit. They’ve become an ongoing reminder of my place—never alone, always held, always invited to choose cooperation with the Divine, no matter the circumstance.

This short prayer has profoundly changed me.

On my podcast, The Apprenticeship Way, I’ve started a series about this prayer. (Part 1, Part 2, more parts forthcoming.) The series touches on the practice of being present to God’s Spirit, the impact of having a Daily Office, and why memorized prayer is an excellent tool for forming our minds. It will also go into the profound theology that lies beneath the surface of these words. But here, I wanted to share with you just briefly how these words have impacted me.

My journey of faith has, for most of my life, been a cerebral one. Study. Theology. Discussion. Thinking. Even apologetic and debate.

In the past few years, however, my focus has changed. My life and circumstances have, as you know, pushed me onto a path of emotional healing. I’ve gotten to face my immaturity. God has, I think, invited me to tend the garden of my heart.

As I’ve turned my attention here, I’ve found myself with an unexpectedly relational—even mystical—element to my journey. It’s new for me, something that Me-Ten-Years-Ago would raise an eyebrow at.

Why this unexpected path?

I’m a builder and a maker. I’ve always been. I find great satisfaction in the creation of a tangible thing, especially when it serves other people well. This is a good thing; part of the Divine Image expressed in the particularity of who I am.

However, I also carry a shadow. It’s easy to find my value and security in the way other people receive and validate my performance. That shadow has can sometimes corrupt the joy of being a maker.

When that twisted shadow gets tangled up in my natural tendency to build, there are several consequences. One is that I’ve become quite good at performing religion as a vehicle for my own value-building project. The old preachers called that self-righteousness. It stinks.

I only bring this up to point out how absurd my current path is, given who I am. Experiencing a mystical connection to God is not something I can defend to you. It’s not something I feel competent in, or likely ever will. I can’t speak about it from the posture of an expert. (My favorite pose, by the way.)

There’s an ample crowd in my extended faith family who can (and do) look askance at what I’m describing. They may worry I’m stepping outside the walls of Orthodoxy. “What about this verse?” They might ask. “What about this doctrine?”

The concerned gaze of these brothers and sisters of mine is, at times, painful to me. It feels like the prologue to rejection, echoes of past experiences. I feel that inner urgency to run back to the safe embrace of their approval.

Learning what I didn’t set out to learn.

Yet, those same qualities are the very thing opening me up to God’s healing. The fact that this new experience is so interior, that I can’t marshal an argument to prove I’m right, that I am an embarrassed novice—these things are keeping that shadow from doing its dark magic. Because I’m no expert, because can’t I prove my experience to you, I can’t build value out of this.

It just is.

There are moments when I am surprised at this turn of events. I’m not a happy-clappy Christian. I’m often cynical when people talk about how the Holy Spirit moves in their lives. I’m far too suspicious of other people’s God-talk, ready to bolt at the first sign of pious manipulation.

Yet, here I am. Having this experience. And learning.

I’m learning that faith doesn’t mean intellectual assent to certain doctrines so much as it means living in trust. I’m learning that even though trust is often hard, it is the gateway to peace. I’m learning that, even though I often feel alone, I am caught up in Ultimate Relationship.

Turns out, Jesus is this remarkable nexus connecting me to God, and then unexpectedly, also connecting me to everyone else! Nobody is an “other” to me, no one my enemy. Even though seeing the world without the label of “other” is hard, it is the gateway to love. Even in a world where jerks abound.

Even when I am one of the jerks!

What I’ve discovered is that when I choose to cooperate with Spirit, I often find my way to greater love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, and self-control. Then, without much effort on my part, I find myself a conduit of those gifts to others around me. Imagine! A spiritual life and religious practice that doesn’t require performance?! Can it really be?

This new thing that’s happening for me, it’s a different way of experiencing my life of faith than I expected. It’s also where Jesus seems to have led me.
So, I will keep trusting, following, and obeying. Resting, Walking, Listening.

In that crucial conversation in the Upper Room, Jesus told his disciples and us that the main deal, our primary gig, is abiding. Abide. Remain.

I’ve heard those words all my life. Honestly? For most of my life, they were an abstraction, a theological premise. But in these past couple of years, I’ve heard Jesus make this invitation to me. Remain.

These words, what I call the Anchor Prayer, are a signpost of this journey—and I’m just stunned when I look back. I’m experiencing things I never really even though were possible.

I rest in faith, trusting Father.
I walk by faith, following Jesus.
I hear in faith, obeying Spirit.
In You, I remain.

Amen.

13 thoughts on “How a driven performer has found healing in a mystical prayer. (A Reflection on the Anchor Prayer)

  1. I love this, Marc! I’ve had a different background but wary of the same abuses that you articulated so well. Our journeys appear similar. I, too, had a journey of healing and seeking Him in simplicity away from the noise. I appreciate and love you my brother. I love seeing your unique creativity in what you’re providing for the Body if Christ.
    Bret

    1. Hey Bret, thank you so much! I so appreciate you following and reading my work. Here’s to the deeper work Spirit is doing in us!

  2. Thank you so much! Becoming unshackled, but what a painful journey. Many wonderful friends but feeling alone on my journey.
    A life with God without performing! Hallelujah!!

  3. Hey Marc. After reading, I Googled “Mystical.” The first definition was what we likely all think of the word. The second definition was: “inspiring a sense of spiritual mystery, awe, and fascination.” There is so much about God that we don’t know (spiritual mystery) and as beings created in His image I suspect there is a lot we do not know about our own spirits. God’s great nature is such that it should inspire awe and fascination.

    Thank you for sharing your prayer. We need to continue in encouraging each other on our journey as we stand in awe and fascination before our Father, and as He reveals Himself as the answer to creation’s spiritual mystery.

    1. That second definition is so important, I think. Christianity had a very strong sense of mystery for most of its history, but in reaction to the enlightenment and the early discovery of the new scientific endeavor, the church started using similar language. We began to systematize our theology, and use language that seemed at home with the cause-and-effect nature of science. Most of Protestantism adopted this, and much of the mystery of our faith was stripped away. I think we (in the Western, Protestant stream) are only just rediscovering how crucial mystery is to our faith.

      A long time ago, Augustine said, “If you understand God, what you understand is not God.” We need to return to that. All our theology and Biblical interpretations and even our orthodoxy, and merely lenses to help us see. They are vessels that contain the mystery, but they are not the mystery. God is bigger, and wider, and more unexpected than we can imagine.

  4. Wow!! I could have written what I just read. God is so very good to bring us to those moments of truth that turn our lives upside down. Thanks for sharing The Anchor Prayer. It will go into my arsenal. Blessings!!

  5. Wow, Marc, I really needed to hear this. It’s not about effort – when I strive so hard to get others to catch a vision. Abide … so simple, so profound. I look forward to checking out your Apprenticeship offering as well as memorizing the prayer.

    1. In a very dark place of struggle, a mentor I admire said to me, “In this one day’s grace, may you sense the embrace of Relentless Affection.” His words have stuck with me for years. If I can be a part of “one day’s grace” for you, and help you sense that embrace, then I’m am thrilled.

  6. I have to reword the prayer to get away from the male imagery. I want to do this without erasing the relationship, so I use Lover, Beloved, Breath.

    1. A friend of mine does the same thing, but uses the role words Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer. Those are theologically evocative as well as rooted in historical Christian theology, which I like. I’m glad you feel the freedom to use language that helps you connect!

      In my current theological place, I envision Spirit as female. The ancient Hebrew and Greek in scripture both use female grammatical forms for the words that get translated as the Holy Spirit, or God’s Spirit, or the Spirit of Christ. I like the idea of calling out both the male and female within God’s identity. Not because that’s “accurate” about God… (Clearly God is above gender not having Human DNA, or plumbing, or a human brain with a gender identity… or rather I should say, since we are created in God’s image, God contains the entirety of gender) …but because it helps us to see God’s blessing and creative work within and upon our gender. It’s a tangible expression of our belovedness.

      The purpose of a liturgical prayer like this, and the Anchor Prayer specifically, is to help connect us in a recurring fashion to our place in relationship to God, and so I think what you’re doing is helpful. God meets us where we are, and we each need to find language that allows our heart (with our entire story) to turn Godward.

  7. Reading this post today felt like warm sunshine on my face. One of my regular thoughts/claims is that I wouldn’t worship a “god” that I could completely understand. The fact that God’s ways are higher than my ways invites trust and peace for me. Admittedly, I question His ways almost every day, especially because too many close friends are going through Job-like trials that seem never-ending, but still I rest in Him.

    It’s encouraging to read of your journey with our Triune Lord, Marc. And, I love the Anchor Prayer.

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