Monday, February 25, 2008

Learning to Pray All Over Again

I have so many things I want to blog about and I can't decide where to start.

There's all the pictures LovelyDaughter took on Butchering Day. I'd love to write about that. It won't be too gory, I promise.

And then there's the Random Meme I've been tagged for by Cricket's Hearth. I want to make sure to do that.

Oh-- and the nice award given to me by Ornery's Wife. I've got to pick it up and show it off and publicly thank Ornery's Wife for her nice words.

And I'd love to share about the wonderful worship meeting we had Sunday night.

But you know what I've been doing? I've been spending all my time thinking about, and learning about, and starting to practice, "fixed hour prayer." You know, where you have morning and evening prayer, and sometimes midday and bedtime prayer. (Of course, there are fancier names, but these words I understand!)

The prayers are usually out of a prayer book of some kind, and there are several choices available, mostly just Anglican, Roman Catholic, and some Irish stuff that looks really good, but I have no idea what denomination it falls into, if any. The same prayers are used day after day, sometimes in a weekly cycle; in addition to patterns of Bible readings and Psalm chanting.

This is something pretty new to me, raised as I was in an independent, fundamental, bible church. We had daily "devotions" or "quiet time" that we were encouraged to have, but we were on our own for the most part. However, we were so afraid of "vain repetition" that prayer books and such like were unheard of; although, in recent years I've come to wonder about that misplaced fear. After all, many of our services were extremely repetitious. I joke now about having "Three Hymns and a Sermon" every single Sunday.

But this new/old idea is starting to catch on again. I had no idea that my personal interest is being echoed all over the Christian community, across denominations.

Why am I interested?

Because I want to take a more disciplined approach to meeting with God every day. I could just buy a devotional book, but I'm not satisfied with sermonettes-- I want a framework to help me focus my heart and mind and spirit on God himself. I want to pray, to worship, to listen, and in the praying and worshiping and listening to know God better and become more like him. And in all that, to have strength for my days and to reach out to others.

Because doing it with beautiful, repeated, prayers, helps me get out of myself, and more into God. Because "recital theology," as one man put it, helps get it off the page and into my heart.

I've looked all over my local bookstore (disappointing) and the internet (helpful) and found some resources to help me do that.

My favorite so far is the basic Book of Common Prayer. The prayers in it are just wonderful-- almost like poetry-- and say things I want to say to God, only better.

Like this prayer for "Quiet Confidence":

O God of peace, who hast taught us
that in returning and rest we shall be saved,
in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength;
By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee, to thy presence,
where we may be still and know that thou art God;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer is a little difficult to navigate, and I almost decided to give up on it, till I found this website that lays out for you everything in the order of worship for each day.

Another choice I really like is a book called "The Divine Hours." There are three volumes, one each for Springtime, Summertime, and Autumn/Wintertime, and they have daily prayers for morning, midday, evening and bedtime. There's even another volume for the night watch, if you want to pray in the middle of the night. (Each day's reading from the Divine Hours can also be read online. Just go here.)

According to what I've read, the Daily Prayer, or Divine Office, or Daily Office, or whatever you call it, is not supposed to be your only prayer. I mean, you are not limited to the written prayers. The Daily Office can get your pump primed, so to speak, and set an atmosphere of prayer. I'm really excited about starting on this adventure. I'm calling it the "discipline of worship."

Before I go, I just have to tell you about the birthday present I ordered for myself.

There's one other book that captured my imagination. It's called "Celtic Daily Prayers" and it's put out by the Northumbria Community in Scotland. It's looks very good. (You can also read it online.) But-- what I'm really excited about is this:

It's the daily prayer, the "office," put to music-- beautiful Celtic music. I'm so touched and inspired by the sample I listened to. I'm so excited I can hardly wait till the CD gets here. (Unfortunately, it's not available in the US, so I ordered it directly from the Northumbria store, which is called "Cloisters.")

But to go with it, I ordered this:

A book called "Multicoloured Prayers," which is "An exciting collection of outlines to colour in. Use ‘Multicoloured Prayers’ for relaxation or meditation, on holiday or retreat."

I can already see myself listening to the music, and coloring, while my spirit prays.

I'm so excited. Or did I say that already?


slouching mom said...

Celtic music! What a wonderful idea!

Ornery's Wife said...

And when is YOUR birthday? Inquiring minds want to know! I like the idea of this prayer discipline, but I know I would do it for three or four days and quit. The music and coloring looks very interesting, though. Hope you post about it later. And, by all means, I hope you share the other things you hinted about!

My Ice Cream Diary said...

I look forward to seeing where this takes you and to hear about the things you learn.

PrayerMom said...

Disciplines like the Catholic Book of the Hours and so forth are great, as long as they don't become a source of condemnation if they're missed for any reason (see Colossians 2).

I've borrowed from many different sources. One example is the Jesus prayer that our Catholic-to-Assembly of God-to-Catholic-to-independent Charismatic contemplative prayer teacher used to open every contemplative prayer session that he conducted: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, be merciful to me, a sinner."

For whatever strengths and weaknesses of doctrine that they possess as individuals or as a group, the Emergent Church movement is trying to teach the church to look through all of the different sects' disciplines for verifiable scriptural insights from which we can learn. I think truth is true wherever it may turn up.