The Common Good

Remembering How to Pray

Every now and again I have to stop and take stock of my prayer life. And when I do that, sometimes I have to share what it's like to realize that how I pray has somehow managed to change without my conscious intention to do so. This is one of those times. 

Praying hands, udra11 / Shutterstock.com
Praying hands, udra11 / Shutterstock.com

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My prayer life has slipped away from me again in that I seldom if ever sit down with The Hours or my breviary and pray. It just doesn't happen. I arise in the morning and work begins. I move about my day from task to task, moment to moment, until the day is done. Idle time comes upon occasion, but not with any regularity. And Lord knows this summer's travel schedule has kept me hopping. Such a schedule keeps my brain busy as well. So, right. Explicit time for prayer is in great shortage.

That said, it seems that I'm being filled up in any number of ways. There is attention to God in any number of ways. 

The basic response of the soul to the Light is internal adoration and joy, thanksgiving and worship, self-surrender and listening.
~ Thomas R. Kelly

I've been reading A Testament of Devotion by Thomas R. Kelly. His Quaker sensibilities have been very helpful of late. Yes, set aside the time. Please do. Your soul and your relations can only benefit from it. But there are times, seasons of life, when God sends us out from the sanctuaries we treasure and activities beacon. There our attentiveness to the Light is challenged, but God is no less present, no less real, no less in love with us. It is upon us then to note God's unflinching desire, to plumb its depths even when we are about the activities of our lives. 

This is a season of activity. The activities thus far feel like a gift to me. I am aware. I am alive. How do I know? Well, I'm terrified. That's how I know. At every turn, I see the cliff's face. I sense the abyss below. I abide in the thin place.

This won't last. Not at all. I will need the sanctuary again. This is one of the reasons I was so keen to move us and live in community again. There are prayers, the Eucharist, a community of accountability. I will need the Psalms and their not-so-subtle reminders of time, timber, pitch, and my place in God's song. 

Kelly's Light is for me a Sound (at the beginning of all things, through which God created all things) and I am a fluctuation in God's celestial soundscape. This is something I too easily forget in the activity of it all. 

So, I will play music. I will write. I will whine and wail at the difficulty of it all. I will be terrorized by the prospect of failure and of success. It's going to happen. It already has happened. So ...

... I pray. Again. I begin again. 

I am, as always, a novice.

Tripp Hudgins is a doctoral student in liturgical studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., and associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Palo Alto, Calif. You can read more of his writings on his longtime blog, "Conjectural Navel Gazing; Jesus in Lint Form" at AngloBaptist.orgFollow Tripp on Twitter @AngloBaptist.

Image: Praying hands, udra11 / Shutterstock.com

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