Friday, 29 May 2015

Week #12: Engage in the discipline of Morning and Evening Prayer

Prayer is essential to Christian living.  This is true of all areas of our life of faith, but is especially true as we attempt to live out our Christian life through the discipline of Simplicity.  There is simply no possible way that we can seek first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, apart from an active prayer life.  A single hearted focus on God's kingdom is a prayerful focus.

Prayer calls us to a deeper reality of life.  Through prayer we become open to the pulses of God's spirit; we become attuned to the whispers of God's voice.  No longer is our Christian life merely a matter of dry belief or disassociated religious doctrine.  Rather, our life of faith becomes a life in the Spirit.  Through the discipline of prayer, our inward selves remain open to the graces of God, which then effects the manner in which we live our outward lives.  The choices we make, the expressions of our desires, the very essence of how we engage in the life around us begins to change as we approach these things not solely in our own power or understanding.

It is through prayer that we are formed more deeply into the image of our Christ.  It is through prayer that we hear the voice of God, a voice which directs, guides, challenges, convicts, and comforts.  It is through prayer where we find the ability to more deeply enter into the reality of our healing and forgiveness.  It is through prayer that we enter into an ongoing conversation with our Lord, a conversation that is the foundation of every faith-filled desire or activity.  It is in prayer that we receive the strength to stand against temptation and live lives of obedience to the will of God.
The practice of morning and evening prayer, sometimes done through the use of liturgical rites, is an easy way to develop a deeper habit of prayer in our lives.  Importantly, there is no legalism here.  The practice of morning and evening prayer is not about the mere filling up of time or the lifeless recitation of words.  Morning and evening prayer is less about the form we use and more about the focus which shapes our life.  We are lead into freedom as the practice of prayer calls into a radical centredness, shaping us both inwardly and outwardly.

Through the practice of morning prayer we are able to lay before God our hopes, our anxieties, and our questions concerning the day which lies before us.  We take the needed moments to enter once again the the mercies of God which are new every morning.  We seek God's face as that which is our first priority, and our ultimate aim in life.  We listen to God's voice, spoken in scripture and in silence, and we anticipate the Spirit's leading.  The grace of morning prayer is that it aids us in our continual and day-long desire to be open to God in our lives.  Having taken moments to ground ourselves in the desire for God's kingdom to be done on earth as it is in heaven, we are more apt to see expressions of that kingdom as we go through our day.

Through the practice of evening prayer we again approach this radical centredeness, this time examining our past thoughts, words and deeds in light of the call of faith.  We thank God for the expressions of God's mercy and grace throughout the day, for the strength and peace that He brought.  We ask God to bring to mind any ways in which we fell short of the glory of God, and we humbly confess those things before God, confident in His mercy.  We lay our questions, our concerns before the one who never sleeps, thus freeing us from the habit of taking our concerns and worries with us into our night-time rest.  We end the day in the same way as we began, in the place of freedom.

Without prayer, we have to ask ourselves, what does it mean to seek first the kingdom of God?  How can we possibly seek God's will and kingdom in our life without developing a habit of continual, focused prayer?  These things make no sense, and bare no concrete reality in our lives, without having a solid footing in prayer.

Find a liturgical resource that includes a form of morning or evening prayer and resolve to engage this practice for one month.  While you do not want to be legalistic about it, understand that developing a habit requires a certain degree of discipline.  Try to focus more on connecting with God than 'getting through' the liturgy.  Reflect on your ability or inability to carry this prayerfulness with you throughout the day.

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