One of the things that I have on my list of things to do for next year is cultivate a better prayer life.
Frankly, mine is terrible. It has never been that great, but it simply seems to have gotten worse over time. Had the best intentions, of course - but what I found is that I kept squeezing it into less and less convenient time slots (such as right before I go to sleep) or doing at less than conducive times (right when I wake up in the morning, where some mornings between falling asleep and repeating myself I've probably prayed - on paper- for 30 minutes).
Obviously, this sort of defeats the purpose of prayer in the first place.
But what to do? Surely more of the same is not option. Yes, I should probably try to not pray while I'm tired or falling asleep (C.S. Lewis had the same problem as well) but I need a more structured form of prayer as well.
My experiment this week has been to follow a more formalized set of prayers.
I'm using The Book of Common Prayer that belonged to my grandfather (yes, I know: it's Anglican and I'm Lutheran. It all works out) and following the office of morning prayer: a short reading from a Psalm, confession, a canticle (usually a Psalm or based on one), the Lord's Prayer, a creed, and a final prayer. After this I have added Luther's Morning Prayer (good Lutheran that I am). In the evening I am using the office of evening prayer - quite similar to the order above - as well as adding Luther's Evening Prayer. In both cases I append my own requests and my Scripture reading to it.
Thoughts after trying it for a few days? I find that I like the formalized confession statement, both as a general practice as well as for the fact that it causes me to think more of my own sins (something I desperately need help with). I especially like the fact that I have a guide to what I am doing rather than trying to constantly come up with my own order - which can eventually lead to just repeating myself constantly.
The risk is that this becomes too formalized and so loses its impact. I guess its a risk - but the Orders of the Catholic church have been performing their orders of service for 1500 years plus and I don't often hear that they are "bored" with it. Intent and focus, I suppose, are as important as what is being done.
We'll see how this plays out. But something - anything - that forces me into new ways of thinking about God and my sin can hardly be a bad thing.