NOVO: Spiritual Tools for Empowered Ministry
By Jason+ Radcliff
I am a big fan of spiritual classics. The Philokalia, The Way of the Pilgrim, The Celebration of Discipline, St. Augustine’s Prayer Book (to name just a few) are all shelved centrally on my bookshelf. I return to these classics again and again when I want tangible and practical steps I can take to focus and energize my prayer life. I also love the classic prayer tools: the Orthodox prayer rope for the Jesus Prayer, the Rosary Beads, icons, the Stations of the Cross, Eucharistic Devotion and of course, the Anglican Daily Office.
I have found, however, that when I begin with these texts and practices—as good as they are (and I do think they are very good!)—I can grow weary and tired in prayer rather quickly. Despite my best theological efforts, in my fatigue I find I can sometimes veer unintentionally and subconsciously into a works-based perspective—a sort of semi-Pelagian view of prayer. My thoughts become filled with distractions such as, I need to work harder at my prayer life, I need to pray more, I need to spend more time on The Office, etc.
I have learned through this experience of the importance of emphasizing my reality in Christ before all else in my prayer life. As St. Paul says, “we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 2:6). When I start with my reality in Christ—rather than my felt experience here on earth—I can avoid all kinds of Pelagian errors of works-based righteousness. I have found, in short, that when I open myself up to the Holy Spirit’s empowerment to rely on Christ, our Great High Priest who is in heaven in our humanity praying for me and in my place right now (Hebrews 4:14-16), my prayer and spiritual life becomes free of burden and consequently full of joy and blessing because I am praying not on my own effort but, by the power of the Holy Spirit, joining in the High Priestly prayer life of Jesus Christ our Great High Priest (Romans 8:26–27).
However, sometimes this is easier said than done! Sometimes I can tell myself over and over again that I am in Jesus Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit in my prayer life, and so I should expect it to be joyful and full of miraculous blessing to others and to myself. Yet I still feel tired and weary and don’t know where to start.
Last year I had an incredibly life-changing experience in prayer where I learned more profoundly than ever before how my prayer life and my spiritual authority are rooted in Christ. I learned some very practical prayer tools for activating that authority and making it a normative part of my Christian life and interactions with others through the The Novo Spiritual Authority Cohort.
We met once a month on Sunday evenings and, after learning importantly of the rootedness of our spiritual authority in Christ, we were introduced to a new prayer tool each week. These tools enabled us to rely on Christ and the Spirit in prayer in order to not be burdened but rather joyfully be a blessing to ourselves and others. These tools included declarative prayer, blessing, listening prayer, inner healing, physical healing, operating as a royal priest and reclaiming territory.
Each week the meetings had a simple structure of a 1) teaching from Novo on spiritual authority, 2) introduction to a specific prayer tool, 3) testimonies from other participants on miracles in their lives through use of the prayer tool and 4) “lab time,” when we broke into small groups and practiced the new prayer tool for that month. Further, we were provided with homework for practicing the new prayer tool as well as short readings to prepare for the next month’s teaching.
My own prayer life was greatly enriched through the experience. I found Novo’s approach to be deeply “three-stream” and very much complementary to the approach of The Anglican Mission in that it is profoundly Christ-centered and rooted in the gospel, understood in the context of Christian worship and liturgy, and focused on practically empowering charismatic prayer and spirituality.
I am so excited that this year The Anglican Mission is partnering with Novo for a society-wide Spiritual Authority Cohort, and we are thrilled to participate in this at The Abbey at Pawleys Island. The Spirituality Authority Cohort is such a great opportunity for our congregations in The Anglican Mission to offer not only a three-stream teaching on charismatic prayer and spirituality as normative for our parishes, but even more importantly, very practical tools for practicing Christ-centered and Spirit-empowered prayer.
We are anticipating with great expectation the time when this type of prayer becomes normative in the life of The Abbey. We believe we will then see not only individual lives changed through learning of spiritual authority in Christ, but through Christ and by the Holy Spirit our parish will be a blessing to our local community. We look forward to seeing great miracles and blessings happening on a regular basis. I am so excited to see the effects of this not only in our parish but across the entire Anglican Mission as we learn more deeply to be a three-stream Anglican society with Spirit-filled, Christ-centered prayer as normative for our clergy, leaders and parishioners as we continue to proclaim the Kingdom of God in America and the world.
Jason+ Radcliff (Ph.D., Edinburgh), is Assistant Rector at The Abbey at Pawleys Island. He is the author of Thomas F. Torrance and the Church Fathers (2014) and Thomas F. Torrance and the Orthodox-Reformed Dialogue (2018), as well as co-author of Grace and Incarnation: The Oxford Movement’s Shaping of the Character of Modern Anglicanism (2020), all published by Wipf and Stock, as well as numerous essays and articles.