Advent Day 16 – Beauty in Prayer

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As promised (even though a little bit late), I will share another daily tradition that we have started in our family. This tradition is the daily hours (or offices) of prayer. The tradition of set hours of prayer dates back to pre-Jesus times. This is a Jewish tradition that the first Christians continued as they developed their Christian practices.

imageThere are several different ways of observing this throughout the day as well as several different ways of actually practicing it. The one we use with our kids for both morning and evening (vespers) prayers is a set of books called The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle. It’s fairly short and is based mostly on Psalms and prayers from the Book of Common Prayer, but with a few other early Christian works and short passages of Scripture. There are several repeated pieces (like the Lord’s Prayer) that my kids now have memorized, which is nice.

I also use Phyllis Tickle’s book for noon-time prayers that I do myself after getting all the kids situated for naptimes. John and I also use the compline (which are said right before going to bed) together at our bedtime. It’s the first time in our marriage that we have stayed consistent with praying together each day as a couple. Recently I started also trying to do morning and evening prayers directly out of the Book of Common Prayer. The main difference with doing this is that I get a better chunk of Scripture reading, so I use this for my “quiet time” each day. I have been very consistent with morning prayers, evening prayers are hit and miss depending on how our day goes. But what I like about doing this is that it has been encouraging me to actually be in prayer daily (when I do it individually I can take time to really pray for those needs around me) and to read my Bible each day. For some reason I find it easier to be consistent with reading the Bible when it is interwoven into my prayer time. And because there is an actual reading program built in, I don’t like getting behind, so I am more likely to keep up each day.

I have to admit that these prayers are not always beautiful, especially when we are trying to do them as a family because my boys are not always well-behaved and in a prayer mood each time. But I am hoping that consistency will bring long-term benefits in the end. And as an adult I find a lot of beauty in the prayers themselves and in the renewing of my mind that happens as I continually fill it with these good and pure things. I used to pray almost entirely only my own words. But I am enjoying adding in this other tradition of praying both prayers directly from the Bible and well-crafted beautiful prayers written years ago by others striving to live out their faith. When I pray these prayers I am joining with believers around the world in a whole new way. This tradition is enriching my spiritual life. Therefore, I find beauty both in the words themselves and in the effect they have on my day.

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