Here's a quick post I did for OCN in response to the tragedy in Colorado. Make sure to read the others. There are some really good reflections here. I struggled with this one.
How a Dark Night Rises in My Heart
Friday, July 20, 2012
For years, I would come to God throughout the day and proscribed times to offer up prayers and commune with Him. While at times, I found a form to follow when praying, it was always a rough formula based on the Lord's Prayer or some other scheme that tried to include all types of prayers such as Praise, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.
Not that these extemporaneous offerings were bad, but I noticed I would always same the same thing. Novelty in prayer only lasts so long. Perhaps my creativity is lacking, but look at the blessing before meals as example. How many ways can you ask for God's blessing and offer Him thanks without eventually settling down into a certain rhythm?
Eventually I needed more form and certainty in what I was saying. My prayers could easily devolve into selfishness and egotism, and saying those words daily was not shaping me into the likeness of Christ, but into a parody of myself.
The solution was the words of others--written prayers. Christians for centuries and Jews prior (Jesus included) have relied upon written prayers to form the bones and structure of their prayers.
The usage of such prayers and committing to a rule brings control over scattered words, diminishes egocentric offerings, and provides training in prayer.
Prayer can be scattered and wandering, a prayer of thanks offered here, a confession there, and perhaps a little supplication to finish off this session.
The words of a prayerbook provide a form and guide that will encompass all those necessary items, and prevent wandering.
Using words forged in the fires of holiness for millennia will dampen our ego. They force us to realize that our thoughts and creations are not necessarily mature and wise as we enter into a communion of prayer with voices throughout history. This is not just a solo prayer, but the prayer of a body of believers connected in a relationship with the Holy Trinity.
We are being trained in prayer by those words of saintly men and women. Then when we are traveling in the car, waiting in a lobby, trapped in conflict, those short extemporaneous offerings suddenly are richer and deeper, full of greater wisdom, from time spent making holy words our own.
Just as we fill our bodies with nutritious foods to be healthy and fill our minds with positive, healthy input to think rightly, we must fill our mouths and hearts with prayers proven in the forges of holy fire, so we too will catch a spark of sanctity.
If reading prayers seems awkward, start with the Psalms. Don’t read as if you are studying, read as if they are your words.
What’s been your experience with praying with the words of others?