Lent: Weeks 2-3Posted: March 27, 2014
When it comes to church traditions, history, things like that, I’m kind of a philistine.
I grew up in the Baptist/non-denominational tradition that seemed to have some kind of crusade to make it seem like Christianity’s roots could be found in 19th century Franny Crosby hymns or early 90’s worship songs (As the Deer, anyone?). My family hopped around to different churches trying to find an evangelical church that believed in Jesus but didn’t embrace legalism, which was actually kind of hard to do.
So needless to say, my knowledge of church traditions and historical practices is a bit patchy.
When I decided to hand over my TV habit to God this Lent, I figured I should replace that practice with something else, something that would help center me, force me out of my usual routines and focus on God. Going to seminary full time and working two other part time jobs has made it easy for me to lose track of the present, since I’m always planning and getting my act together for future dates. What could I do to meditate and get in the God zone, so to speak?
That’s when I read a blog that advocated trying out praying the hours over the Lenten season a la Phyllis Tickle.
I didn’t even know what the heck praying the hours was, but I bought the book (I actually did know who Phyllis Tickle was, since I saw her name come up in magazines and conversations, and seriously: how can you forget a name like Phyllis Tickle?)
A couple weeks ago, when Lent started, I made the decision to try to at least pray the hours 3 times throughout the day. I’ve got a handy little kindle, so this made it feasible (it would be a little more difficult if I had to lug an extra book with me everywhere I went).
Honestly, this had a lot of appeal to me: something I thirst for (something a lot of evangelicals my age seem to also thirst for) is a greater sense of church tradition and structure to worship in every day lived life. Something I’ve been particularly aware of is the way our prayer lives and our songs at church can become a bit “me-centered” and about how I’m feeling and about my own, individualistic idea of what it means to follow God. And I’m not a fan. I’m not sure if it’s something we did on purpose, and I’m not trying to point fingers, but there’s something distinctly juvenile about having a relationship with God that is mostly about what God can do for me.
And I’ve found that a large source of my frustration in life comes from my inability to be present. How much of my life is spent thinking about later, about what needs to be done, and what my life will (hopefully) look like some day? And at the other end of the spectrum: how much time do I waste thinking and ruminating on stuff that already happened, stuff that’s bothering me, or things I wish I could’ve done differently?
That’s not what we were designed to be like. We were made to be here and to be living and loving God and other people the way we love ourselves. And when I’m stuck in the past or the future, I’m usually loving just me without even really living.
So here’s what I’ve found: praying the hours has been good. I’ve had some grace for myself, since sometimes I can’t even squeeze in the 3 prayers, but it’s been a great experience. I’m very fulfilled by these prayers; even though they aren’t addressing a specific prayer request that’s tailored to me, I find that they have been what my soul needs: focus on God, and focus on re-centering my heart on Him and his ways for a few minutes.
And I can’t help but think it’s like a sort of heart-calisthenics: because I do these soul-sit-ups now and then, I’m in better shape to live my day.