My mornings with A.W. Tozer (Keith Price)
This article is taken from the book Thirsty for God by Keith Price
During my mornings with A.W. Tozer, the streets of Toronto became holy places. Even though many people read this man's books, he taught me to become the One Book Man. He showed me not to conform to others and to live against my generation. I learned from him to kindle fire in my heart and in the hearts of others. He inspired me, through his frequent quotations, to read the great hymns of Bernard of Clairvaux and use them as prayers, when thirsty for God.
Yes, I have followed in the footsteps of Mr. Tozer, my role model. He spent time with me. He was patient with me. He prayed for me. He taught me to dig the old wells again ; to bring people back to the old way and to cultivate a healthy distrust of passing follies and novelties. He marked my life and my ministry. I will be forever grateful to him nt.
"I received a letter from New York this morning inviting me to a summit meeting on spirituality," the legendary A.W. Tozer tells me, as he climbs into my car. Not surprised by this way of starting the conversation from a man who wasted no time in polishing his speech, I replied, “This is very interesting! "
He gave me a disapproving look. "Interesting, young man? And, obviously concerned that I hold this letter some value, it served me with a brief critical commentary that I will never forget. “If you think you are at the top,” he told me, “that’s a sure sign that you’re not there. Rather look at the bottom! "
I get his message. Wanting to avoid further repression, I just nodded, “Yes, Mr. Tozer! "
It was an unforgettable Bible principle among hundreds of others that this man, who knew God like no one before him, would pass on to me.
This was in 1961. I was 31 years old and had once had the privilege of spending mornings with Mr. Tozer in my car while I drove through the streets of Toronto on business. He had no liking for deliberative assemblies. I was his pretext. I allowed him to shy away from staff meetings held at Avenue Road Church (later named Bayview Glen), where he worked as a pastor-preacher after living in Chicago for 31 years. Our mornings quickly took on the appearance of a ritual and during the last two years of his life we shared many more like this.
The ritual came after my first visit. I wanted to consult him on how I could balance my time between my pharmaceutical company, my family responsibilities and my many sermons that I gave during the week. I don't remember his answer on my first visit (he rarely answered me!). But I remember he noticed my thirst for God. I soon realized that in the providence of God I found myself in the presence of a man who, probably more than any other on the North American continent, was able to teach me how to nurture this thirst.
I used to pick him up from church around 10:30 am and drop him off at his house in Old Orchard Grove around 2 pm. Our conversations, interrupted at times by business communications, intensified at length during dinner.He was involved in my life, teaching me the greatest lessons I have had the privilege of learning from this man
I was far from suspecting then the profound impact that these times spent with him would later have on my life and my preaching.
People who knew him will remember him for his outspokenness and his sometimes abrasive temper. I remember him as a man who exclusively pursued "the supreme good: the knowledge of Jesus Christ his Lord."
Eager and passionate about communion with the living Christ, this evangelical mystic did not mince his words. Despite his lack of so-called diplomacy (which to him meant "hypocrisy"), this man of great theological luminosity manifested a thirst for God like I had never seen in others.
He taught me to beware of crowd phenomena. I still hear him say, "Young man, when you see a group of Christians who are all running like sheep in the same direction, you turn around and run as quickly as possible in the opposite direction!" This opposite direction was, as he predicted 40 years ago, to swim against the tide of hyperactivity into a place of solitude and fellowship with God.
His thirst for God, he poured it out on me and showed me that I could satisfy it regardless of my level of education. One day, I asked him for advice. As I had left school at the age of 14, I did not feel comfortable or adequate when invited to teach in educational institutions. I was wondering if I should finish secondary V - and even pursue other studies. “Young man,” he said to me, “you are thirsty for God and you are already very busy teaching the Word. I have often noticed that many of those who return to complete their studies never regain the momentum for God they had at first. Keep pursuing God your way. "
Then he added what I will never forget: “I too left school at 14 years old. You know, I think we both wish we had gone to college. But, there is one thing we have that many others don't. "
"What is this thing?" I asked him.
His eyes sparkling, he replied, "We are aware that we lack knowledge, which is why we keep educating ourselves!" "
In his company, I was mainly exposed to his contagious thirst for God. Because of his tutoring (he was above all a mystic much more than a teacher), I find that almost all my sermons reflect this "pursuit of God", no matter which page of the Bible I took them from. .
He first showed me that my thirst would lead me to contemplate God and his majesty. He complained about the human race abandoning the concept of majesty. He viewed the respect bestowed on monarchs as a valuable starting point which then led to an understanding of the majesty of God. According to him, when this level of respect crumbles, the notion of majesty is distorted, the understanding of God is masked, resulting in the worship of worship, which he saw as an interested substitute for worship. of the King of kings.
He demolished the caricature of the mechanistic conversion that relies on the decision to accept the Lord. He knew very well that this decision had to involve a process, otherwise we would be dealing with an abscess.He already anticipated the danger of operating manuals which announce peace to those who follow the instructions for use (whether they feel peace or not) They only offer a false sense of security based on a formula instead of relying on the work of God. Such victims, he said, would have very little thirst for God.
Even when faced with clear evidence of conversion, he remained cautious and warned of the danger of thinking himself perfect. He agreed with Abraham Heschel who said, "The satisfied person never thirsted in God. Drinking from the fountain of God, he said, would only increase thirst. So, we would have to go back there again and again.
He flooded my thought with the work of Saint Anselm, Nicholas of Cusa and Julian of Norwich. He taught me to reflect and use the inspiring hymns of Bernard of Clairvaux and Frederick Faber, two soul mates in the pursuit of God.
He cured me of my belligerent spirit towards contemporary non-Protestants by citing profusely the wisdom drawn from the writings of GK Chesterton or Thomas Merton (with whom he corresponded), although he did not always share everything they wrote.
Gerhard Tersteegen - that mystic, who, 200 years before AW Tozer, had exemplified the following commitment: "It is to God alone that, in calm, I surrender: my salvation comes from him" Psalms 62.2 - was one of his favorite authors.
Tozer has restored me to the past. He also made me dependent on the works of certain Desert Fathers. He made me thirst for God and that it was inexhaustible. I will be forever grateful to him.