We just concluded our series on Living a Sacramental Life (to Combat the Secular Heresy) by talking about the way that we learn to live in moment-by-moment communion with God: through embodied participation.
What this means is that we don’t really grow as disciples of Jesus until we follow Jesus with our bodies. This can manifest itself in a number of ways, but one of the most important embodied practices for disciples of Jesus is praying every day at a regular time (or times).
It’s something I do with my body every day in response to God’s promise to meet me: I show up in my study every morning at 7am or so, after my girls leave to catch the bus for school. I light a candle, and I pray (out loud – again, this is embodied participation, not just a head trip) the Daily Office from the Book of Common Prayer.
Not a quiet time
Learning to show up (in my body) every morning for daily prayer has been deeply transformative for me. Like many of us, I grew up with the practice of a daily “quiet time,” but praying the Daily Office is different from having a quiet time. Luke Childs helpfully lays out 3 important ways the Daily Office differs from a quiet time:
- The Daily Office has a systematic schedule. Rather than being guided by my whims and feelings, the Daily Office Lectionary takes us through the vast majority of Scripture, and contains a cycle of prayer that directs to pray for the various needs of the Church and the world. There is a place for our own prayers in the Daily Office, but we pray with the Church as well.
- The Daily Office is communal. Rather than being a private, individual act of devotion, the Daily Office is easy to pray with others, which tangibly realizes Jesus’ promise to groups of two or three who gather in his name (Luke 18:19-20). Even when you’re praying the Office on your own, as I do most mornings and evenings in my study, you are praying with the Church, so you’re not really praying alone at all.
- The Daily Office connects us to the history of the Church. Many of the prayers and phrases found in the Daily Office come not only from Scripture itself, but from some of the most most saintly Christians who have ever lived. We learn to pray from those who’ve gone before us in faith.
Praying for myself vs. praying with the church
As I’ve engaged (bodily) in this practice, several profound shifts have happened for me. For example, I used to think of prayer as something I do for my benefit alone. So when my life felt “fine,” it was difficult to pray. But I now think of prayer as something I’m doing with the church, so it’s taken on a new significance for me.
The church joins me in prayer when I pray the Daily Office, and I join the church in prayer when I pray the Daily Office. I feel that I rely on the Church to pray for me and that the Church is relying on my prayers as well.
How to grow in prayer
It can be difficult to start a rhythm of daily prayer, but if you’d like to do it, I would encourage you to start with something simple, like the Daily Prayer Liturgies we’ve created for morning and evening prayer.
Also, watch for a class we’ll do in January on how to pray the Daily Office using the Book of Common Prayer.
Finally, here are some helpful ideas on how to grow in prayer from Rich Villodas:
- Befriend silence.
- Normalize boredom.
- Embrace the truth that prayer is not something we master, but an act that forms us.
- Pray the words of others who have gone before us.
- Trust that God is always waiting for you with open arms.
I especially love that final thought: remember that prayer is an encounter with the living God! Whatever time you manage to carve out this week for prayer, know that God is not upset with you or disappointed in you. God delights in you and will meet you with his grace and mercy whenever and however you come to prayer.
Grace and peace,
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