Last week Kristin Hill Taylor's weekly Wednesday linkup changed from Three Word Wednesday into Porch Stories; today Kristin writes about Putting my Prayers in a Box.
When Kristin told me today's topic was prayer, I immediately thought of it as a good topic for the slowed-down days of Lent. I also realized all of us need to evaluate and reorient our prayer lives on a regular basis. People insist we become closest to those we talk to most often. Talk to about what? Most of us reserve certain topics for certain people, but with God, we need to be sure nothing's off limits. In her Mudhouse Sabbath, Lauren Winner reminds us Jewish prayer is liturgical prayer, meaning actions, words, postures, and attitudes that belong to the entire community, not simply to a single individual. She suggests beginning our daily prayer time(s) with written prayers rather than with free prayer that's the longing of our own hearts.
What written prayers would I suggest? Why not start each prayer time with a psalm? Close with a psalm, as well? In our necessary quest to be sure nothing between us and God is off-limits, the full range of the psalter provides expressive depth to every aspect of "Our Human Condition," and afterwards we can bring our own situations, consternations, hopes, and troubles before the throne of grace. We can pray the liturgy of the hours with the church in every time and every place, but apart from a retreat or vacation setting, praying all the canonical hours every day likely won't happen. Why not greet the new day with an abbreviated version of Matins and/or pray Compline as a family, as a couple, or alone on your balcony or veranda after your evening meal or before bed? When Jesus' disciples asked him how to pray, he responded with "Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name..." You know the rest! Talk about praying with the rest of the church! Just as we bring our own voices to God in prayer, God's Holy Spirit has inspired people who developed the structure and words of the divine office (and the Eucharistic liturgy) to combine and integrate God's address to us humans with our responses to God's initiative.
I've never gotten into praying scripture through the practice of Lectio divina, but it's still easy to claim for ourselves a few verses from almost any portion of scripture. There are daily devotional booklets that offer very short reflections on short passages; you also could begin your serious devotional time with the standalone two-year daily lectionary on PC(USA)—"standalone" because it doesn't relate at all to the 3-year cycle of the Revised Common Lectionary. Just as we speak to God through our words and actions, with our whole lives, God speaks to each of us as individuals and in gathered community through the words of scripture, best interpreted by Jesus, the Living Word. You also can access the daily lectionary here—this links directly to readings for today, 22 March 2017.
Making scripture as God's word to us and for us a integral part of our prayer that's our word and words from earth to heaven can help us discern what God asks of us, where God wants us to be. As dwellers in the 21st century and as people God has called and claimed in baptism, we will receive personal, individual revelation—just as the scriptures witness to countless individuals to whom God has revealed Godself and God's intentions. What God asks of us always will be for the greater good, and will align with better or best options for the families and communities we belong to and interact with; God's intentions for any of us ultimately will lead to the well-being and betterment of all creation. We literally can invoke God's words and Jesus Christ's presence in scripture to measure and test what we hear!
There are sitting (standing, walking) in silence types of prayer that provide opportunities to open, bear, and lay bare our hearts and our lives to God in ways speech can't; ways to listen for God's response in ways only sheer silence can transmit, but for this Porch Stories edition I've concentrated on Praying with Spoken – and sometimes our own Written – Words.