Thursday, July 17, 2008


I have been known to tell some people that prayer is something that I am terrible at. It seems weird to think of someone that has been a follower of Jesus since he was seven years old to have a bad prayer life….but it’s true. Most days I am lucky to have spent some time talking with God a little before my head hits the pillow. I think it has to do with the fact that I never made it part of my “routine”. I have my Bible sitting on my desk to make sure that I see it first thing when I wake up. This is a physical reminder to read the word. I have medicine that I take daily --- I have to set it next to the coffee maker to make sure that I take it, otherwise I will forget. I have my son tell me to put on my seatbelt when we are in the car because I never made it a habit --- he is my reminder. I walk into the house after being on the road and put my keys, wallet, and phone in my office so I do not lose them…..this is my routine. Unfortunately, I never had any habit or routine when it came to a prayer life. Honestly, I don’t know if I have ever been taught or told how to pray or make it a habit. It is something that is just assumed or expected that you do as a follower of Jesus. That’s all well and good, so how am I supposed to “pray without ceasing” as I am told by Paul?

One day, a month or so ago, I was working as I often do at a local bookstore. They provide free internet and I purchase cinnamon tea from them in return. I decided to take a stroll through the book store and a book caught my eye --- “In Constant Prayer” by Robert Benson. Knowing that I have issues with being able to pray like I’d like to, I decided to purchase the book to see what I could get out of it. Conviction. That’s what I got out of it. This book is about the use of liturgical prayer in our daily lives. Taking time to pray at several hours of the day like the fathers of our Church (big “C”) did back two thousand years ago. This practice actually started way before them and goes on today --- except for the protestant church that seems to have done away with it a few hundred years back.

In this book, “In Constant Prayer” a quote caught my eye. It is rather lengthy, but worth it. Note: at one point, the author speaks about the “Daily Office” which is reference to praying certain liturgical prayers. The quote is as follows:

“We make grocery lists and honey-do lists. We set our alarm clocks, and we program our TiVos. We have automatic deposit and automatic draft, and we make sure we are planning for that glorious day when our children grow up and go off to college or go off to somewhere else (anywhere, if need be). If we are going to move, we do our homework before we buy a house; if we are going to travel, we sort through Priceline; if we are working toward some big event at the holidays, we put a checklist on the refrigerator. We would not dream of trying to do anything in our lives that really matters to us, where it is large or small, without making a list or two or twenty-seven, and checking it twice a day.

I have noticed a curious phenomenon. One of the few things that we are reluctant to make lists about and do research about and have a row of boxes to tick off about are the things that have to do with our spiritual lives. I don’t know why that is.

We say that our spiritual life is important to us. Sometimes we will even go so far as to say that it is the part of our lives that is the most important to us. We also say, at least we say about everything else that matters to us, that if we do not writ it down, we will forget to do it. We say that if we are going to make sure something is done and done well, we need to make a plan so nothing gets missed and nothing gets forgotten.

The place we are least likely to make such a plan is when it comes to our spiritual lives. We would not dream o f being this way about anything else.

Then we go back to a retreat or some such event a year later and realize we are being drawn to the same things again, and so we make the same promises again to God and to ourselves. Then we go home and do not make a plan again, and we look up one day and realize that we have moved no further along again.

We are unwilling, it sometimes seems to me, to leave anything in our lives to chance except the way that we live out our lives in communion with the One who gave us life in he first place. It seems odd to me.

I have spent enough time over the years writing and talking and retreating and studying and teaching, dare I say it, about and around and over and through and inside and out of the practice of the daily office to know at least this much: to pray the office is to anchor your life of prayer somewhere between the daily and the divine.”

Well, if it wasn’t enough for the Spirit to convict me of my lack of prayer life, Robert Benson sure did. I haven’t yet finished the book, but I do plan on purchasing a “daily prayer” book and making it a part of my life. I hope to make prayer as daily as my coffee, medicine or other routines that I have.