Prayer has often been one of the weakest parts of my relationship with God. Yeah, I’ve been a pastor for about 20 years and a follower of Jesus for longer – it’s not supposed to be this way. But here’s the truth about my prayer life – it’s mostly distracted. I often pray like a drunk driver, coming home to “amen” and not remembering how I actually got to the end of my prayers. And it can be so shallow – I’m praying and off in the editorial department of my head the censors and editors are critiquing, revising and generally dismissing my prayers, realizing what lame platitudes they are.
I resonate with Barbara Brown Taylor when she writes: “I am a failure at prayer. When people ask me about my prayer life, I feel like a bulimic must feel when people ask about her favorite dish.” (An Altar in the World, p. 176).
And so it’s quite the bizarre little irony that I’m now the author of a prayer book. You might question using a prayer book by someone who’s just confessed prayer as one of his biggest spiritual deficits, but I think my weakness strangely qualifies me. It was my own need to find a form of prayer that was bigger than my shrunken heart that led me to write a prayer book – if only for myself; it was my hope of finding a way of praying that drew me into something more expansive and alive than the poverty of my own religious feelings that led me to this ancient practice of prayer.
The book is called Seeking God’s Face (you can see a sample and/or buy it here) and it’s a prayer book modeled after the long-held practice of praying a daily office.
“A daily what?” you ask. Since the daily office is mostly unknown today, I’m going to spend some time exploring this ancient spiritual practice in the next few posts. I’m doing it because my prayer book begins today (the book is connected to the Christian year which launches out preparing for the coming of Jesus in the season of Advent).
Praying the daily office is a form of prayer that has a long history but is new to most people today. It is a pattern of prayer and worship that is regularly offered to God at set times within the course of a single day. It’s rooted in the simple reality that just as we need a mug to enjoy a sip of coffee, so we need a form for our prayers.
The daily office provides a pattern that frees one to enjoy prayer as an extended conversation with God – God inviting you to be with him, you quietly enjoying his presence, listening to his Word, and responding to him with the reality of your life, and God sending you with his blessing.
I’ll be exploring some of the what, why and how of praying this ancient practice in the next few posts, but why not try it out for starters. Here’s the daily office for today, the first day of Advent, from Seeking God’s Face:
Day 1 (first Sunday of Advent)
Invitation: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.” (Psalm 130:5)
Bible Song: Psalm 25:1-11
In you, LORD my God, I put my trust. I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause. Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and each me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Remember, LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, LORD, are good. Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of his covenant. For the sake of your name, LORD, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.
Bible Reading: Jeremiah 33:14-16
“‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. “‘In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The LORD Our Righteous Savior.’”
Dwelling in the word: Read the passage again slowly … find a word or phrase that catches your eye or moves your heart …. Slowly repeat it … pray your thoughts, desires, needs, and feelings from your meditation … enjoy the presence of your Lord and Savior
- For fellowship with the coming Jesus
- For spiritual renewal and refreshment
Lord’s Prayer: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one, for yours in the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen
Prayer: Living God, I confess the slant of my heart to hate you and my neighbor. But that sounds so harsh – I’m not that bad, am I God? Yet if I am brutally honest I see that I’m in deeper than I dare admit, unless I am born again by your Spirit. Fill me with the greater hope this Advent season that in Christ’s love I am on my way to new life. In the Savior’s name, amen.
Blessing: “Come, Lord Jesus. Come. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people.” (Revelation 22:20-21)