When it comes to reading, I have some definite habits. I don't mind reading non-fiction if its something practical (work or school or just interesting), but it rarely grabs my attention in a way that makes me unable to put it down. It usually feels like work to make it through a non-fiction book. Fiction, on the other hand, has a way of getting me to stay up all night reading and to take the book with me everywhere until I'm finished with it. I've been that way ever since my teen days (Christy Miller, anyone?) - and experienced it last fall with the Harry Potter series. There are times when I'm jealous of people (Melissa) who get jazzed about reading things that are very practical. Rather than read about church or ministry, I like to travel and escape and explore through books! Can you blame me?
However, this past week, I got this book ("Praying with the Church" by Scot McKnight). And I didn't want to put it down. I've messed around with fixed prayers for the past few years (which I've blogged about before). I think it appeals to me because it's different from what I grew up with - and it incorporates practices from church history that are rich theologically. What's great about this book is how simply McKnight gives the history of fixed prayers (from Israel's practice to Jesus and the first Christians, then through Christian history), makes a case for how they can be formative spiritually, and discusses how to get started in a very practical way. I love that he's from an evangelical perspective that stays away from this type of prayer; consequently, he handles the common reaction that people from that background can have (it's too Catholic, can be insincere, etc.).
A common theme for this approach to prayer is creating a rhythm of prayer that gives structure and centeredness to our days. And by praying prayers like the Lord's Prayer, we join Christians throughout the world (and throughout time) who are praying/have prayed the same thing.
So, I started doing morning and evening prayers again this week. I've already been blessed and challenged by it. I use Phyllis Tickle's volumes, The Divine Hours. Here's a hymn that she included that just blew me away (especially after praying the Lord's Prayer several times this week):
“Forgive our sins as we forgive,”
You taught us, Lord, to pray,
But you alone can grant us grace
To live the words we say
How can your pardon reach and bless
The unforgiving heart
That broods on wrongs and will not let
Old bitterness depart?
In blazing light your cross reveals
The truth we dimly knew:
What trivial debts are owed to us,
How great our debt to you!
Lord, cleanse the depths within our souls
And bid resentment cease.
Then, bound to all in bonds of love,
Our lives will spread your peace.
-Rosamond E. Herklots