Bunge believes that one of the principal values of studying early-Christian prayer is that it will lead us to the recovery of “the missing Person”—the Holy Spirit. Bunge believes that the Spirit has been lost in some circles in Western Christianity.
The loss has led to a false “spirituality”—one which actually means little more than a ratcheting up of human willpower. Our claim to be “spiritual” means little more than that we have had some kind of experience which has motivated us to “try harder” in whatever area of life we feel the need to do so. Hence, a plethora of “spiritualities,” but (Bunge believes) no Spirit.
We learn from Evagrius, for example, what it means to truly live a “spiritual” life—a life lived from the soul. Evagrius noted that the soul has two parts: the rational and the passionate. The “rational” part does not mean the purely intellectual or cognitive; it means the “core of being.” It is the part where the Spirit dwells.
But when the “rational” is missing, the passions are left to run wild, not only in sinful actions, but (more dangerously) in spurious assertions that “we are the masters of our fate and the captains of our souls.” The passionate part of the soul is, by itself, egotism gone to seed.
So…prayer is “rational” in the sense of calling for the return of “the Absent One” (p. 31). Prayer is restoring the Missing Person, so that both parts of the soul may live and thrive in a proper relationship to each other.
Bunge writes, “let the observation suffice that we would do well to distinguish carefully, with the Fathers, between that which is really ‘spiritual,’ namely, what is wrought by the Person of the Holy Spirit, and all that belongs to the domain of ‘the natural man,’ that is, our irrational wishes and desires” (p. 33). Prayer is the means through which we maintain our relationship with God.