Thursday, December 27, 2012

Orders of Service

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.

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