April 9, 2011

Use your time to pray.

I wanted to add an extended quote from the book that I just finished reading titled, In Constant Prayer.  (Read my review here.)  This quote comes after the author discusses the loss of that tradition of seeking God through prayer.  Just prior to this quote he makes this statement,
"Sometimes it occurs to me that I am a member of the first generation of followers of Yahweh in six thousand years for whom the offering of daily fixed-hour worship and praise and prayer -- a tradition practiced and treasured and passed down to us from the Hebrews to the apostles to the early Christians to the fathers and mothers of the faith who sustained this church we now call home -- is no longer deemed a necessity or an obligation or a duty or even an opportunity."
In case you are unfamiliar with what he is talking about, he is referring to a tradition called the Daily Office.  According to this Lutheran website, the Daily Office is defined in this way:

Services of prayer offered at established times each day. Already at the time of Jesus, set times for prayer were customary (Acts 3:1). By the sixth century, eight services of prayer, which included psalms and readings from Scripture, were observed in the monasteries. Since the Reformation, this schedule has been simplified to three times of prayer: morning (Matins), afternoon/evening (Vespers), and close of the day (Compline).
To my understanding, and according to this book, this is a very good definition of the Daily Office.  The one idea that struck me, whether it was because I wasn't aware of this fact or because I thought that this was purely a monastic invention and ritual, was the heritage of this daily prayer.  This book has left me thinking about my own lack of prayer in all new ways.

Since I would like to share this dilemma of the conviction of my lacking prayer life, I share this quote with you.
We who will get up and walk, or even run miles in the mornings, not to mention those of us who are not willing to wait for there to be light to see the bottom of the flag or for the frost to go away before we tee off; we who will haul ourselves through our neighborhoods in the dark to make sure that we have the box scores as quick as we can -- for all kinds of reasons, including some good ones, I suppose, we will not, cannot, do not rise in the morning to greet the dawn with a song of praise on our lips, as did those who went before us. 
We who will stay up late to watch the televised version of the news that we heard on our drive home at six, who will TiVo enough must-see television that we have to stay up late to keep up, who will not go to sleep without reading a novel, who will burn a candle at both ends and in the middle if we can figure how to get it lit, will not end our days with praise and worship and confession and blessing. 
We will not do these things in the name of love or discipline, devotion or worship.  We will not even do it for selfish reasons, or even as a reliable way of self-actualization, to put it in its least favorable context -- which, in our Western American twenty-first-century, self-help, and consumer-driven culture, is astonishing.
There were some ideas in this book that I didn't agree with, but I have to say that this particular statement was right-on, and left me deeply convicted at the things that I am willing to sacrifice to do and the things that I have not sacrificed for that I should have.