Sunday, 19 February 2012

Monk, not Thelonious

Life with Jesus can contain surprises; you think of yourself as a certain sort of person, or certain sort of Christian, then find yourself doing or becoming someone different. Not changing who you are entirely, still being yourself, but doing things differently.

Lately in my life the change has been liturgy. I started off as a Christian in churches with no or minimal liturgy; it was something fairly dull and meaningless we had recited at school, something old and fusty, not me at all. Then I found myself going to an Anglican church, re-encountering liturgy, getting occasional glimpses of the sense of oneness it brought to us all as we prayed as one, but still not sure about it on the whole. Gradually as I have got used to the form of the service of Home Communion I have grown to love it, the reminders of who we are and who God is and how we relate.

So recently, while searching for ways to pray more regularly and with more discipline I decided to take a look at the Northumbria Community's website to see if they had any resources which might help me and there I found their daily offices, the prayers they say daily which form the rhythm of their daily life. I went to them because of what a friend from university, whose parents live there, had told me about it and because I had been impressed by the sense of peace that radiated from his parents when I had met them. Initially when I had been praying about how to pray, which sounds odd, but made sense at the time, I thought perhaps I would experiment with some different methods and types of prayer, but since I started praying the daily offices about a week and a half ago I have not stopped, neither do I want to.

Praying the morning and evening prayer (I have not yet managed to fit in the midday prayer), though sometimes at odd times, has given me a rhythm of times when I stop and spend time with God. The words are growing on me, helping ingrain Jesus and God's promises within me, reminding me of them and giving me a structure for the times I spend with God. There is space for my own prayers and short, digestible Bible readings. After I have prayed the morning or evening office I feel peaceful and calm, it is strengthening my ability to see things with the eyes of faith and not feel so overwhelmed by the world around me.

Most immediately helpful has been Compline, the short prayer said last thing in the evening. Since starting to say this prayer I have found that I have had fewer problems getting to sleep, which is a real relief. There is a different one for each day of the week, but they centre around praying for God's peace as we sleep, something I always need.

I am grateful to God for the generous gift the Northumbria Community have made in sharing their Daily Offices and also that He has helped me gain the discipline of following them, I pray I may continue to grow and develop in prayer. None of this has come easily so far, I have been asking God, in my somewhat haphazard prayer, fitted in among and during other things, that I might pray better and spend more time with Him for quite a while. It is well worth persisting in prayer, even if it does not immediately appear to be answered, keep asking and trusting.

And so on with the adventure and change.

Here is one of my favourite parts of the morning prayer, to give you a taste:

Christ, as a light
illumine and guide me.
Christ, as a shield overshadow me.
Christ under me;
Christ over me;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;
in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Christ as a light;
Christ as a shield;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.


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