Reflections from the Rector - September 2018
As fall in the academic sense rapidly approaches, and many of you prepare for your schedules to be driven by the times and dates given to you in a syllabus, it strikes me that now might be a good time to think about how our lives are ordered as Christians. I’m no longer in school, but I too am driven by dates and times that can’t be found on even so much as a liturgical calendar; I’m left wondering if the Psalmist is eternally bothered by how much we misinterpreted the call to number our days. There is something about the intrepid nature of our lives that tends to show up in planners, erasing from memory our belief that God is the director of our hours.
It’s helpful to remember that that the Church, even in days that would feel to us very unlike our own, knew that we would struggle with this. While we may lament what we perceive to be cultural reasons for our chronic busyness, the earlier leaders in the Church wouldn’t have created a way for us to order our days through prayer if it had not already become a concern. Or, maybe better put, ordering our days toward God and worship has always been a priority and the knowledge of the inevitability of the human brain to forget these priorities is the part that is not new.
In the Book of Common Prayer, we are given a very specific way to order our days: the Daily Office. The Daily Office provides liturgies for morning, noonday, evening, and night (Compline). It even has shortened forms of each prayer, for the times when you simply don’t have the time to do the full office. The placement of the times for the liturgies provides, in a sense, check-ins with God throughout the day, which serve as a reminder that the true force behind each of our hours is the power of God.
If you have never before considered ordering your day with prayer, I will admit that the offices can seem intimidating! If you begin to feel that way, you might consider beginning this practice by praying a simple, shorter prayer at those same times: when you wake up, at noon, at the close of the day, and before you go to bed. I have even gone so far as to acknowledge my dependence on Google Calendar and add event notifications for each time during the day that I need to stop and pray. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t use the tools given to us to support us in our worship. After a few weeks of adapting to stopping during the day to pray, you can then switch some of your shorter prayers out for the fuller office liturgies. Compline tends to be the best starting place, as it is one of the shortest and easiest to follow (plus it is, for some reason, especially beautiful). After that, you might fold in Noonday prayer, which is even shorter. Then, given your schedule, you might pick Morning or Evening Prayer to include in your daily worship. In the spirit of full disclosure, I will add that I do not always pray every service of the Daily Office. I struggle in my own life with consistency (I am writing this to me!) though I try to keep it as something that I’m always returning to, always coming back to, always bringing it back to the forefront of how I understand my prayer life.
If you worry about carrying a BCP around with you, I highly suggest the Forward Movement app, which folds together all of the options given in the office, making it a bit easier to digest. You also might consider finding someone in your life to pray the offices with you, as a way of both holding one another accountable and also praying in community.
There are many ways to pray and you might choose to pray differently during different times of the day. For instance, I rarely pray Morning Prayer these days, but almost every morning I pray while I walk at the park. If nothing else, I encourage you, with the fullness of the program year just days away, to think—and dare I say, plan!—intentionally about how you will incorporate prayer into your busy life.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll keep saying it: I think one of the great miracles shown to us in Jesus is the miracle of the man who, on his way, stopped when he was interrupted. Jesus wasn’t a stranger to having obligations, but he also wasn’t a stranger to strangers, because when they tugged at the hem of his garment, he was willing to stop.
May we have the faithfulness to stop throughout our days to interrupt him on the way, interrupt ourselves on our way, so that we can hear again and again the words of grace that only Jesus can speak into our hurried moments.
Peace be with you,