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October 24th, 2014

The Musings of an Urban Monk

The Musings of an Urban Monk (cover)

Jesus did it. Paul did it. And we all think we should do it. But most of us don’t. Prayer: why is it so hard?

The Evangelical Alliance’s 2014 report, Time for Discipleship, reveals that the majority of Christians struggle to spend time in prayer. ‘Less than a third (31%) set aside a substantial period of time for prayer every day’, according to the report’s findings, and ‘more than half (57%) pray privately for less than an hour each week’. Clearly something is amiss.

In The Musings of an Urban Monk, Simon Jones suggests that the reason so many of us find prayer difficult is that fundamentally we understand God not to be a father but rather to be a judge – and one we have disappointed at that! As he puts it, ‘The problem is, it’s really hard to take your shoes off, don your slippers, curl up and relax with a judge.’ Written out of his journey into the heart of God, a God whom he has found to be the most playful and loving Father, Simon’s twenty-one reflections reveal prayer to be the easiest and most rewarding adventure.

The Musings of the Urban Monk draw on Simon’s own experiences of learning about prayer – which really is nothing more (and nothing less!) than learning about God – as well as the wisdom and writings of Christian history. The daring, childlike trust of the Celtic believers, the passionate, romantic insights of the mystics, and the radical, counter-cultural example of the desert fathers are all described and inform Simon’s work. But Simon’s desire is not that the reader should be inspired or awed by the efforts of those who have gone before – rather his heart, and the heart of the book, is that we should begin to understand how ardently we are loved by God now. Just as we are, praying much or praying little, feeling close to him or far from him.

Everything Simon shares is rooted in Scripture and the realities of modern familial and working life that can make it so hard to find time to pray. A graduate of London School of Theology, Simon has a rich biblical understanding of God, and, giving the lie to his ‘urban monk’ moniker, he has never taken vows but is in fact both very happily married and the full-time manager of a town centre retreat. However, though he is still young, only in his early 30s, he has devoted much time and energy to seeking God out in prayer – a faith journey that has been richly rewarded with profound revelations of who the Father is.

Simon’s reflections gently, even playfully, challenge false conceptions we have of the Father, revealing how much fear causes us to hide our true selves from him. How we respond to these revelations of who he is and who we truly are can dramatically change the way we view prayer. Do we dare to believe that he is love and that we can trust our inmost selves to that love? ‘To be loved and let love pour into your soul is what prayer is all about,’ says Simon, ‘for we cannot even love God unless we’ve first experienced Him loving us’ (1John 4:19).  If prayer is about experiencing the indescribable, immeasurable and immutable love of God for us then maybe, just maybe, each of us can understand why Jesus did it, why Paul did it, and how we can do it too!

Evangelical Alliance report:

The Musings of an Urban Monk is published by Instant Apostle and is available from Christian bookshops and online in paperback and electronic formats.

ISBN 13: 9781909728189

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