Reflections to start the week
Monday, September 15, 2014
Day by day
Got any daily rituals? Bet you do. Let me put a finer point on the question: Do you have a daily spiritual practice? These come in great variety. One pastor I know calls his congregation to the Ten/Ten rule. Ten minutes of bible reading. Ten minutes of prayer or silence. Someone else recommended naming five things for which you are grateful. A particularly spiritually evolved friend, a rabbi, spends 20 minutes in silence in the morning and in the evening. Yoga works for some. Some people read Forward Day by Day. One corporate executive ends his day with quiet reflection on whether in the past 24 hours he had lived true to his values and goals. If not, he resolves to live more fully into those values and goals in the coming 24 hours. I’m here to tell you that a good cup of coffee, savored slowly, can be a deeply spiritual experience.
For years, my daily practice has been a streamlined version of Morning Prayer, including a bit of silence, the confession, the reading of a psalm (or two) and other assigned readings for the day. I conclude with prayers of blessing, thanksgiving and intercession. As part of this practice, I was reading from the Book of Common Prayer last week, and noticed something I hadn’t paid much attention to before. There’s an introduction to the confession I had skipped over, preferring the short version. That longer version, on page 79 of your Prayer Book if you have one of those lying around, offers a wonderful formula for a daily ritual.
It says that we have “come together” for three things. We have set apart intentional time, whether we are alone or not, for the following: to set forth God’s praise; to hear his holy Word, and to ask, for ourselves and on behalf of others, those things that are necessary for our life and our salvation. Let’s look at those one at a time.
We set forth God’s praise: Some of you may remember the Saturday Night Live Newscast when Chevy Chase was the anchor. He would introduce the newscast by saying: “I’m Chevy Chase and you’re not.” Here’s a random association. (Bear with me.) We set forth God’s praise to remember that God is God and we are not. This may be the most important spiritual practice, setting forth God’s praise, a mixture of adoration and gratitude. Annie Lamott has said that one of the most important prayers is simply the word “Wow.” It offers perspective for everything else we do. It shifts the focus away from us, which is in and of itself a pathway to freedom, as we look beyond ourselves.
We hear God’s holy Word: The psalmist says that God’s word is a lantern to our feet, a light along our path. It comes to us as guide, challenging us, leading us, teaching us, reminding us of the story of God’s ongoing relationship with each one of us, reminding us that we are on the receiving end of grace. The church in which I am presently privileged to serve is reading through the Bible as a congregation this year. That involves a fair amount of reading. But daily attentiveness to God’s word can be simple reflection on a few of those words. It can be a matter of chewing on a phrase. Again, it is a matter of looking beyond ourselves.
We ask, for ourselves and on behalf of others, those things that are necessary for our life and our salvation: As in the Lord’s Prayer, when we ask that God give us this day our daily bread, we again express our dependence, our reliance, our trust in God’s providence, not only for ourselves but for others. Not only for those we love, but for those who drive us nuts, push our buttons, undermine our progress, seek us ill, don’t appreciate us as much as they ought. We pray for the needs of our broken world, in such dire need of God’s healing power. Can you recall a time in recent history when that has been more true? Again, it is a matter of looking beyond ourselves.
I don’t know what your daily spiritual practice might be. I don’t presume to prescribe one for others. I’m working on figuring out my own. For sure, one size does not fit all. But from what I’ve observed, life is simply more manageable when you have one, and especially when it is offered in the spirit of reliance on the one who calls us into relationship. If you have a daily spiritual practice, I’d love to hear what it is. If you don’t have one, today is a perfect day to start.
– Jay Sidebotham
“What’s the difference between you and God? God never thinks he’s you.”
-Anne Lamott, from Help Thanks Wow: Three Essential Prayers
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
A poem attributed to St. Columba from the 6th century:
My dearest Lord,
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.
In the 1928 Prayer Book, in both Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, the phrase “to render thanks for the great benefits that we have received at his hands” comes first, even before praise. I’m sorry it was left out in the otherwise splendid 1979 edition.