Quietism: Then and Now

John Wesley combated a group of Moravian like folks within one of his core societies in London. They were folks who asserted that we should wait for the fruits of the Holy Spirit before participating in the means of grace.

Not unsurprisingly, John retorted that the means of grace were the place to wait for the Spirit. By place I intend to say activity, the means of being vigilant and keeping the oil topped off like the wise bridesmaids waiting for the bridegroom to come. This sort of think crops up now and again and pops up centered over what practices constitute the means of grace and how we regulate who participates in them.

Eucharist for instance: Who is allowed to participate? Baptism? Confirmation?

Mostly people agree that prayer, bible study, fasting and so on – the Quietists were getting people to hold off on even these. Why? Not sure. They were regulating the community and participation in the community on the ability to sense and inward transformation. This isn’t entirely unlike the (few) pentecostal groups that put up barriers to membership around the gift of tongues. They want to see a movement of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers.

My current beef with quietism centers around one passage: “Pray without ceasing”. It’s an instruction from Paul, and we can be really bad at it.

People want to pray without acting, which is not quite the same thing as praying without ceasing. It’s cropped up several times in conversations about desires for change within the church and world. People claiming that we should pray and wait, and what particular activity should we take on while waiting? Praying… But without any real attention to this verse.

They want to stop everything and pray.

In general, that’s not a bad thing, but we pray without ceasing by taking on the task of praying with acts that follow the line that we are praying in. In other words, if we are praying to help the church we have to study and work towards that end. So, let’s pray on our knees and get up and pray while we are pursuing growth in the love of God and neighbor.


About Sean Smith

Husband, Father, Pastor, Swimmer, Writer, Reader, and attempted Adventurer!
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