Devotion and prayer are typically very difficult habits. Why is this difficult for us? Kleinig considers this first as a spiritual battle. If we find ourselves depending on our own resources rather than God’s resources we have lost the battle. However, rather than using guilt to change our behavior, Kleinig wishes to make encouragement.
Kleinig sums up the Christian life as Paul does in 1 Corinthians 4:7. All that we have is received from God, not created ourselves. Secondly, the life of spiritual disciplines assumes that Jesus will enable us to do whatever God wishes us to do. While all Christians would like to be more effective in prayer, there is a gap between our desire and our actions. Kleinig suggests that the way of closing this gap is through a disciplined life of prayer and study. However, when we focus on what we do to accomplish it, we are bound to the law and headed for failure.
Counter to this, a view of receptive spirituality allows us to trust in the provision of God rather than our actions. We do practice piety. Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, assumes giving, praying, and fasting as normal aspects of the Christian life. Paul encourages Timothy to exercise his piety. This is tied to right doctrine. Piety makes us receive the gifts of God. This will result in performance in the world. Meditation on God’s Word, then, enables us to receive what God would give us. Titus 2:11-12 says this is God’s work of changing his people by grace.
Kleinig points out the fact that spiritual disciplines are the work of a disciple, what disciple does. Two key passages are in John 1:14-16, where we see God’s grace in Jesus, and later in John 1, where Jesus promises that Nathaniel will see heaven opened and the angels, a scene of God coming down rather than of us going up to God. Jesus promises to reach to us on earth.
Luther’s work on spirituality deals with a traditional three step pattern in which the Scripture is heard. Receiving through hearing is passive as opposed to pursuing it through reading. Second, the believer meditates on the text. Finally, we would pray about what to do. The goal of this is finding union with Jesus. The problem Luther saw in this pattern is its emphasis on doing rather than receiving. Luther responded to it using Psalm 119, a pattern of oratio, meditatio, and tentatio. Beginning with prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit, he moves on to meditate on the external Word of God, then reception of a spiritual attack which drives the Christian back to prayer. Kleinig moves on to speak specifically about prayer, drawing on Luther’s comments. The point of prayer is to continue to receive the Holy Spirit. Because the Holy Spirit inspired the Scripture, he also delivers himself to his people through the Scriptures (DS suggests this is a circular argument and does not follow logically). God does promise to give the Spirit to those who ask. This is the reason for meditation on Scripture. Considering what God has said creates a greater understanding of it. God’s Word is given to be spoken, sung, and heard. Luther advocates all the senses available to participate in meditation. Meditation on God’s Word results in an attack of Satan. The person has a true experience, which drives him to seek God’s Word and comfort again. This, Luther says, makes a real theologian. The testing of God’s Word becomes the proof of our Christian piety.