Mention “spirituality” or “spiritual discipline” to most believers and they probably imagine things they must do for God. Dr John Kleinig, guest presenter at Concordia’s Student-Faculty Retreat held 28-29 August at Mount Carmel Spiritual Retreat Centre, pointed out that spirituality begins first with receiving. Under the theme, “Train yourself for godliness” (I Timothy 4:7), students, faculty, and district pastors and laity from Ontario and Western New York learned about the practice of receptive piety and receptive prayer before moving on to more familiar topics of self-examination and vigilance in spiritual warfare.
Especially helpful was to see clearly identified the various tricks of the devil to rob believers of their confidence in Christ by getting them to keep looking at themselves and their practice of piety. Without meditation on God’s Word and prayer it is impossible to live godly and pious lives, yet a disciplined life of prayer and devotion is one of the more challenging areas of our faith life. Quoting Agathon in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, Dr Kleinig concluded: “Every time a man wants to pray, his enemies, the demons, want to prevent him, for they know that it is only by turning him from prayer that they can hinder his journey. Whatever good work a man undertakes, if he perseveres in it he will attain rest. But prayer is warfare to the last breath.”
The annual retreat provides an opportunity for the new students each year to start becoming more familiar with theological studies. The event was expanded this year to include others and 43 took part in the presentations, devotions and fellowship. Dr Kleinig is also author of Grace upon Grace and the Leviticus commentary in the Concordia Commentary series (CPH). He was also the recipient of a Festschrift volume, You, My People, Shall Be Holy, edited by seminary faculty Drs John Stephenson and Thomas Winger.
Recordings of Dr Kleinig’s lectures can be downloaded here:
1. The Practice of Receptive Piety
(our recording failed, but you can listen to the Michigan 2013 version here)
2. The Practice of Receptive Prayer
3. The Discipline of Self-Examination
4. Discipline of Vigilance in Spiritual Warfare: Part 1, Part 2
Note: Dr Kleinig presented seven lectures on this topic–including three not presented to us–at the Michigan District Pastors’ Conference in 2013. Video recordings are available here: http://www.michigandistrict.org/events/all-pastors-conference-2013.