The Pilgrim Continues His Way, by unknown author
We are not sure if the “The Way of a Pilgrim” and “The Pilgrim Continues His Way” are true accounts of the adventures of the author, or if these are tales crafted for spiritual instruction. The sequel, “The Pilgrim Continues His Way” is written like a play, where the name of each character precedes the character’s statements. This is opposed to the first-person format of the first novel. Why was it written like this? I do not know. Anyway, these were both good books, and I’m glad that I read them. They made me question my prayer life, and most notably I realized that constant prayer is a great strategy for avoiding impure and sinful thoughts. Focusing ceaselessly on Jesus Christ leaves no room for sinful thoughts. I see how constant prayer is effective at creating a pure heart.
In this sequel to “The Way of the Pilgrim,” the pilgrim continues his quest to learn what it means to pray without ceasing. The pilgrim meets a priest, and he confesses his sins to the priest by writing them on a slip of paper. The priest read the pilgrim’s proclaimed sins, and seeing that the pilgrim is a man seeking truth, the priest explained that the pilgrim failed to mention his greatest sins. According to the priest, a person’s greatest sins are:
I do not love God
I do not love my neighbor
I do not have faith in spiritual realities
I am full of pride and self-love
I think this stood out to me, because much of what the priest said was challenging. I do not love God. If I loved God, then I would think about him constantly. Is this also true with a marriage? If I love my spouse, then should I be thinking about her always? I do not love my neighbor. If I loved my neighbor, then his joys would be my joys, and his sorrows would be my sorrows. Most of us do not even know the names of our neighbors. If we do not even know their names, then how can we share their feelings? And even if we do know our neighbor, do we feel nothing for them? If we feel nothing when they experience a joy or a sorrow, then this is not love. I do not have faith in spiritual realities. How often do I think about eternity? How often do I read and study Christ’s words? If I believed in eternity after life on earth, then I would be constantly preparing myself for eternity by ceaselessly practicing spiritual disciplines. Instead, my mind wanders to secular things, and I read secular books. I am full of pride and self-love. When I see something good in myself, do I wish to show it to others? Do I wish for them to see my intelligence or work ethic or discipline? If I see something bad in myself, do I try to justify it? Do I seek sensual delights and try to satisfy my carnal desires? Wow, these are some tough question posed by the priest! It is clear what the priest defines as a sin-free life. To be free from the priest’s 4 sins would require a life of complete abstinence and isolation. It would, by most standards, be considered insane. The lifestyle that the priest advocates for, if fulfilled, would be considered complete insanity.
Why is the lifestyle that the priest advocates considered insane? Why do I think it is unrealistic? He makes some very good points and constructs a strong case. I think that he forgets that Jesus also calls us to participate in this world and to be disciples. Living the ascetic lifestyle is not making disciples. And I think this is where the Buddhists, the priest, and other ascetics are wrong. They focus on self-discipline and preparing the self. The focus is on self – my heart and my mind and my body. Although good, they are selfish. By focusing entirely on your own personal discipline, no matter how noble the intent or honest the ambition, it is still a focus on me. Preparing your own body for eternity, perfecting your own spirituality, perfecting your own communication with God, and focusing on your own sanctification are noble and right ambitions, but when they become a god, they cease to glorify God. Therefore, I think the ascetic lifestyle is not Christ’s intent, because it does not go out into the world, it does not seek to love your neighbor, and it does not strive to make disciples. Therefore, the ascetics miss a massive portion of Jesus’s teachings. However, just like some people glorify Christ best by remaining unmarried, I think that some people will glorify Christ best by practicing asceticism.
Where does the Bible support the claims to love your neighbor and to make disciples?
[Matthew 28:19-20] Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
[Mark 16:15] He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”
[Romans 10:14-15] How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
[Matthew 4:19-20] “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”
[Matthew 22:37-40] Jesus replied, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hand on these two commandments.
The priest concludes his remarks with a call to action. He spurs the pilgrim to strengthen his convictions by seeking true knowledge. It is necessary to seek true knowledge by gathering experiences and reflecting on the word of God in the midst of those experiences. By gathering experiences, reflecting upon those experiences, and seeking true knowledges from your reflections, you will develop a deeper and broader understanding of love. In everything that you do, seek knowledge and understanding by evaluating your experiences in relation to God’s word, and in this way you will learn how to love the Lord and how to love you r neighbor more deeply and more intimately, which fulfills Christ’s greatest commands.
The Appendix contains some additional teachings about prayer. The teaching that stood out most to me most was that there are 3 ways that lead towards the “Jerusalem of the mind.”
External silence of the lips
Abstinence from food, drink, and sleep
Meditation on death
First of all, I like the term, “Jerusalem of the mind.” I think it’s a good way to describe the inner peace and oneness with God that the pilgrim is seeking. Jerusalem is God’s land, which is the opposite of Satan’s land, Babylon. So the purpose of ceaseless prayer is to develop a heart and mind that reflects God’s attributes and God’s design, just like the city of Jerusalem is designed to reflect the character of God. External silence, abstinence, and meditating on eternity are important. And I think that many people do not value these things. When I think about people who are absorbed in the things of this world, they are typically loquacious, indulgent, and focused on the present. I see in the world around me people who enjoy hearing themselves talk, boast about their accomplishments, indulge in food and alcohol, worship sex, and strive for material wealth. In summary, these people are seeking to satisfy their carnal cravings. On the other hand, a Christ-centered mind is not focused on these things.
How is it possible to pray without ceasing when a person is responsible for a job and a family? The teacher responds that constant prayer is a state of heart. It does not mean that you need to be constantly vocalizing prayer. You can pray inwardly. The teacher provided a good example. Suppose that the king gives you the task of writing a book, and you are forced to write the book in his presence, under his watchful and judging eyes. While writing, you would be focusing your mind on the book and on your task, but at the same time you would be constantly aware of the king’s presence and watching eyes. While your mind would be actively focused on the task, you would subconsciously be aware of the king’s presence. In the same way, ceaseless prayer means constantly being aware of Jesus’s presence in the midst of all your tasks.
People who are new to the practice of constant prayer will benefit from saying the Jesus Prayer out loud. Vocalizing the prayer with your voice will train your mind and heart to focus on it. With time and experience, you will develop the ability to pray constantly without the need for external vocalization. Whenever impure thoughts enter your mind, call out in prayer to Jesus Christ. By praying ceaselessly, you can avoid all temptations. If your mind is focused on Jesus Christ, then there is no room for anything impure or sinful.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.