In a class I’ve been convening as part of my doctoral work, one of the “assignments” each week has been to do some kind of daily prayer, using the Book of Common Prayer. Last week, folks could either choose a prayer or thanksgiving from pp 814-841 in the BCP OR they could read the night service of Compline.
Last night, we had some interesting conversation about why it has been so challenging for folks to carve out even ten-fifteen minutes every day to pray or reflect about their spiritual lives. I asked them, “This is not a judgment on my part. I am just interested in hearing how you all believe you can be spiritually formed and strengthened if you don’t have a regular prayer discipline. What gets in the way of that?” The answers were honest and intriguing. Pressures of time, especially for those who commute in the DC area. The subtle pressure of multi-tasking. The demands of a family–especially for those with young children. The struggle to have discipline in one’s life in general.
My instincts about Sunday were confirmed. About two hours on Sunday morning really is the major block of time when spiritual formation happens for most folks. One person noted that it is easier to be prayerful in community. Yes! The monks and nuns learned that centuries ago, did they not? And Archbishop Thomas Cranmer knew this as he crafted his masterpiece we know as the Book of Common Prayer. Christianity is about community, not individual quests.
What last night’s discussion also confirmed was my own long-held belief that because I rarely see some folks except on Sundays, my own reflections and time spent on writing and preaching a good sermon are critical. My care (as is true for others) in making Sunday morning worship rich and full for people is critical.
One person shared that she has done daily spiritual prayer and reading for years, because she is affiliated with Daughters of the King. I asked how she began to do that, and she said, “I started out with little bits here and there. And I found that the more time I spent with God, the more time I had during the day to get things done. ” Hmmm. Sounds like a good beginning for a stewardship sermon, doesn’t it?
This morning, I found a beautiful poem by Eric Symes Abbott, who was appointed Dean of Westminster Abbey in 1959, retiring in 1974 (died in 1983). I decided to post it here, especially for the techie students in my small class! This poem is from Invitations to Prayer: Selections from the Writings of Eric Symes Abbott, Dean of Westminster, 1959-1974. I found it in an anthology, Love’s Redeeming Work: The Anglican Quest for Holiness.
“Spaces of Silence
Whatever we may say about particular
times and methods of prayer,
this much is essential, that each day
should have some dedicated silence in it.
This is the gift of our time to God.
We are to put ourselves at God’s disposal
in the quietness. The prayer
will be dispersed throughout our day,
throughout our activity, but there will be
some dedicated spaces of silence.”