Jeff Pratt - Contemplative Activist

2018 03 19 jeff pratt web 02A reflection by Rebecca Le Bas, words by Jeff Pratt
On Wednesday 28th February, staff members were blessed to hear from international speaker and author, Jeff Pratt.

For 17 years of his life, Jeff grew up in a Mormon household. One of seven children. He was convinced that Mormonism was the only true religion and the way that would lead him to being with God some day. He knew the Mormon scripture having been brought up going to the seminary before school. His understanding was that he had the right knowledge and he embraced their lifestyle - so that meant he was saved, didn't it?

Jeff went on to explain the miraculous change, which took place in his life and led him away from Mormonism to Christianity. He has written about that transformational process in his book, The Homeward Call: A Contemplative Journey Into A love That Will Not Let Us Go. He explores the way Jesus Christ invaded his life and showed him what it is to feel God’s call on his life. This led to him becoming a Contemplative Activist. Pratt defines this term as the realised union with God that sustains the life of love and meaningful service. Contemplative Activism is when we learn to be fully present in body, heart and mind to what is, so we can be available to bring forth what could be. As we look at the life of Jesus, we can see clearly that he was a seer before a doer. John 5:19 says, “Jesus only did what he saw the Father doing”.

Brother Laurence wrote that the life of a Contemplative Activist is based on a pure, loving gauge that finds God everywhere. This is a steep contrast to the Western world we occupy, in which our minds are distracted and cluttered. We don’t find God everywhere as we have hearts that have forgotten to be still.

We’re too busy to become seers and we will often get our identity and worth from doing. Inside ourselves, we’re often running all of the time. Forever ambushed by the tyranny of the urgent by busyness and schedules. In my opinion, said Jeff, we’re so seldom awakened to the inner voice of love, the song of God that is always playing, always wanting our attention, aching for us to be still enough for the encounter to happen.

Richard J. Foster once said, “The heart of God is an open wound that aches over our distance and preoccupations, He weeps over our obsessions of meaningless. He longs for our presence.” Jeff believes there’s a call of God in these post modern times. It’s for you and I to be sifted in the stillness, to learn to hear the heartbeat of the risen Christ.

2018 03 19 jeff pratt web 03True seeing is the heart of spirituality so we desperately need some spiritual disciplines and practices to teach us how to see so we can know what’s worth seeing and what’s not worth seeing. The spiritual practices of silence, solitude and prayer, fastingand the Eucharist are the ones that Jesus showed us how to walk in. They have been given to us for a purpose to rid us of illusions so that we can be present. They exist so we can see ourselves clearly, and see God clearly and His movements in the world clearly.

So I say, those that have ears to hear let us hear. Those who have eyes to see, let us see. May we slow down to be contemplatives who live in the heart of the world to see the pain that Jesus sees. Who we are inside will determine what we see. What we see will determine what we do. John 15:4 Live in me, make your home in me as I do in you (From Eugene Petersen’s paraphrased version of the Bible called “The Message”)

Abide in me, remain in my love as I remain in you. What does your abiding life look like? Are we learning to see what God sees and let the rest be?
“In a crazy time of beginning to lead this monastic movement of people, it’s funny how often you preach something you’re challenged to live it in your own life and don't often live up to that expectation”.

In his famous excerpt from his Confessions, St. Augustine eventually finds peace on doing God’s will. He says, “O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, You’ve lived inside of me but I’ve lived outside of myself”. We live lives more affected by the trauma of finances, culture and economy than making that sacred space that hears the call of the beloved.

As Henri Nouwen refers to in The return of his prodigal son, we struggle with three voices that tempt us everyday not to live in the embrace of God.

  1. The first prodigal self is the performer. The one that says go out and prove your worth being loved to be popular, successful and powerful. It's the voice Jesus heard in the wilderness and it's the voice we hear in our Christian culture.
  2. Number two is the busy prodigal self. Those of us that are too busy to live a life for John 15, the abiding life in the embrace of God.
  3. The third voice Jesus heard in the wilderness was to seek unconditional love where it cannot be found.

Now, in the scripture, we can find the three prodigal selves in those terms as in many other ways but I believe this error of time is you and I living in upside out of ourselves into the embrace of God. Yes, heaven will be our eternal home but we don't have to wait until then to experience home. Home is the centre of our being where we can hear the voice that says, “You are my beloved, marked by my life and light of my life, come let us make something beautiful in the world”. Come let us make something beautiful in the world. The trinity within us beckons us to know who we are and to look at the world through the eyes of the crucifier. To see with joy and pain and respond with Contemplative Activism. We make space to know His heart and time to give it to us. 

Home is where the trinity lives within our hearts, where we find our still centre and we hear the inner music of our beloved stand.

When we face the thought with stillness we’re able to pause and know that God’s ‘got it’ and let all anxiety and negativity go. Once we do that, we can live with gratitude. The attitude of gratitude dispels all wrong thinking. By detaching it and pushing it into gratitude, we stay in that place until the anxiety leaves. I don't have a dialogue with them as if they are real, as it says in James, as desire conceives and the temptation gives birth to sin and sin to death. By pausing at the gateway, having no commentary with it, facing it with stillness, detachment and then gratitude, His peace is then able to guard all our minds and hearts. Be slow enough to be aware of what we’re carrying.

There’s a piece of artwork at the end of every chapter in Jeff’s book where he asks you reflective questions. There’s journaling space so that you can be trained in the contemplative practices, to have that place of stillness and journey with God. Ultimately, this process is to fulfil the mission of John 15.

Philippians 4:6-7 has challenging words. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, make your requests be known to God and the peace of God, which surpasses understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Can you this very week slow down your pace enough to be aware of any anxiousness you may be carrying? To be aware of any pain and any issues that seem to be vying for the affections of our heart or our attention? Contemplatives are in the place of awareness. Of what is eternal. We need to slow down enough to accept this Philippians challenge. Being aware of anxiousness when it comes and pausing and intentionally bringing it into the presence of God. Number two: sometimes I find it helpful to give it a name. If it's a worry, a negative or striving, sometimes giving it a name makes it more easy to detach from it and let it go.

Jeff’s life changed dramatically when he found God, leading him to create Axiom Monastic Community 15 years ago. Axiom is a global network of communities and individuals who are Contemplative Activists seeking to find God everywhere. You can find out more here