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Praying the Day Away

October 14, 2012

Faith for clergy is a moving target, in that most folks seem to just sit still while their faith moves, ebbs, flows, or does whatever it will. Few of us seem to have the will or time to make our faith matter more to us in a day to day sense, and it feels deeply hypocritical to rise and tell the people to “get their faith back into focus” when we’re not doing the same.

Not long ago I preached a sermon about the daily prayer practices of devout Jews and Muslims, and expressed my admiration for their “through the day” prayer life. I noted this, and then made a half-hearted attempt to find time to pray through the day myself, usually just using a favorite passage of scripture.

It didn’t work.

What I lacked, more than anything, was a form to hang my spiritual hat on. But I think I’ve found one now.

Phyllis Tickle’s The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime. 

The point of this book is to create a modern and usable manual for daily prayer. The book asks you to stop, four times a day, and dip into a series of readings and prayers that will give focus and shape to your day. The Lord’s Prayer appears each time, as well as the Gloria, which you are encouraged to sing. In fact, whenever a song crops up in the reading, and I know it, I try to sing it quietly. There are selections from the psalter, and from scriptures, and usually a refrain to keep you on track through each office. It borrows from what I know to be Catholic Hours liturgy, but not in a heavy-handed manner. You can learn more about Tickle’s approach here.  The correct name for the practice she proscribes is “fixed-hour prayer.”

I will note that there is no attempt to make the language inclusive in any way. God is HE, Him, his, etc. If this bothers you then this book will not serve it’s purpose, because it will pull you out of the stream of prayer that you’re supposed to create. Instead of finding focus, you may be caught in distraction. I am a fan of inclusive language, indeed, a defender of it, but I don’t mind using such a resource in my personal devotions. I know God has more natures, as shown in scripture, than we can make sense of. I only note it here so you aren’t surprised if you choose to use this resource.

It is valuable. I love praying the hours. I am finding myself more in touch with the “God-sense” of what things mean, and more in turn with folks coming into my sphere with their own “stuff.” No matter how I feel when someone approaches, many do so with the expectation of Pastor first. I’m not making excuses for that, but just noting that being in this daily-hour-prayer-stream is a new and inspiring way for me to keep God through Christ at the forefront of my experience.

I recommend the book and the practice to you. We have an opportunity to reclaim our days for God, and I’m finding that I approach others with a very different mindset when I’m praying the hours. You might find the same, and it has been a rich gift this week.

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