I’ve always felt like my prayer life was lacking. Maybe you’ve never felt this way. But I can’t help it. Every time I would go to pray, my mind would wander. If I prayed at night I would often fall asleep. I hear people talk about how deep their prayer life is. They tell me how they can just spend so much time in prayer, they can get lost in it. Meanwhile, I can’t seem to even find an opening line to say. So during the season of Lent this year I have decided to do something about it. Rather than sacrificing something out of observance, I decided I would add daily prayer to my life in the hopes to make it a new discipline.
I’ve always been taught that prayer is some sort of spontaneous conversation between you and God that wells up within you and just gushes forth in reverent, and yet moving fashion. That’s a great image unless your prayer life is more like a yard hose someone stands on that can’t ever seem to get enough pressure to water the grass, much less burst forth like a river whose dam was broken.
I decided for Lent that I would pray with help. The Book of Common Prayer offers Daily Offices of prayer one can observe throughout the day. In these offices, you can pray Scripture, including Psalms and Gospel lessons, and you have petitions, laments, and collects that guide your prayer. For those not familiar with the daily offices, they include Morning Prayer, Midday Prayer, Vesper Prayer (evening), and Compline (night) Prayer.
I found a few books that would help give me some variety in prayers as well as my new favorite way to pray: via Twitter. Virtual Abbey offers multiple opportunities for daily prayer via Twitter. You can pray live as they post or you can come back later and read through their postings for your prayer.
A strange thing has happened this Lenten Season as I’ve carried out this practice, missing some days or even doubling up on others. Prayer is no longer a means to an end–praying for reward; to get out of bad places; to feel more righteous. No. Something much more profoundly subtle has taken place. My life has quietly become oriented around prayer. On the days I forget, and that happens from time to time, I notice. And on days when I do observe an office (or even have multiple observances in a single day) nothing more happens than knowing that I’ve prayed; that I’ve had a short experience in a world that the pace of my everyday life can make me miss.
And another thing. I’ve become much more comfortable with mystery. Praying everyday and participating in a framed practice that is much more ancient than anything I know has actually helped me cope with (and dare I say, enjoy) the mystery of life. Becoming comfortable with not being in total control of my life has been one of the most liberatingly transformative experiences of my life. But that’s a post for another day.
Until then, as faithful person (or community) more ancient than I has said:
Lord, have mercy
Christ, have mercy
Lord, have mercy
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen