Thursday, July 10, 2008
One of my spiritual practices this summer has been to pray through the "Divine Hours," as Phyllis Tickle calls them in her manual of the same name. It's "praying the hours," founded on readings from the Book of Common Prayer. Last fall I started praying the Morning Office, usually with a couple of students before their 9:00 class. However, I haven't really prayed through all the offices until this summer. This morning, while praying the Morning Office, as I've done most mornings for the last year, I prayed the Lord's Prayer.
"Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread..."
You know it, whether you pray trespasses or debts, you know it. Anyway, as I was praying these first three lines, I was struck by something that, ashamedly, I've just noticed. I noticed that I had just prayed in the plural..."Our Father...Give us...our daily bread." Praying the Lord's prayer has not been one of my common practices, except for in church when I pray it along with the rest of the congregation, until I started praying the hours. And throughout most of the year, I prayed it with students. This summer, I've been praying the Lord's prayer by myself, but today the "corporate-ness" of it really struck me.
One of the powerful things to me about using Divine Hours as a guidebook for prayer has been the idea that while I'm praying this prayer now in my time zone, an hour from now, someone in Mountain Time will be praying it. And then Pacific, etc. The idea of continual prayer, around the world becomes a reality. I think this morning I sensed a similar reality, except on a bigger scale with the Lord's prayer. While I was praying, I realized that while I may be praying it alone in my living room or in my office, "the saints," both living and dead have prayed this prayer innumerable times. Hebrews 11 and the first verse of Hebrews 12 comes to mind, "Here we are, surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses." The faithful prayers of so many, initiated by Jesus' important prayer, help us hold that prayer in proper context. We can pray to God, requesting for God's kingdom to be realized here on earth and that God's purposes would be accomplished. We can be grateful for the provision that God gives us through physical things and receive the forgiveness of God, as well. We also can ask for God's protection through all of our trials and temptations. We. Sure, I individually could ask for these these things, but this is a prayer for all of humanity. It reminds us that we haven't "arrived" yet. And, due to it's universality, it is a prayer that helps us experience community, even if we're praying it alone in our living room. Thanks be to God!