Several weeks ago, while I was in Florida, I read a book that's been messing with my life ever since (actually that has grown into a string of books that are messing with my life...more on that another time.). I definitely think it's a good thing to have your life picked up, turned over, shaken out, and realigned, but it isn't comfortable, and it can be discouraging at times -- A total aside here, but I did get a little God spanking after the tone of my post yesterday. I am a selfish, selfish girl. Truth. I repented and it's better now. -- God never takes you on a journey without equipping you with the tools you need to make it to the next stop.
I'm sure that's why the month that most appealed to me in Jen Hatmaker's book, was the one in which she spoke of praying the Hours.
I could spend a great deal of time online finding a million links and explanations to help you find your way through this process, but since I am not currently online, you are going to have to read this and then use your trusty google fingers to find other information.
Essentially praying the hours is a liturgical practice where one reads or recites prayers at certain hours of the day: 6am, 9am, noon, 3pm, 6pm, 9pm and midnight (or any early morning hours, really...these prayer times are called "vigils" ). I've mentioned before that I am not always the best pray-er. I'm highly distracted and easily overwhelmed at the sheer volume of things which I wish to bathe in prayer. Not to mention the fact that we are talking about having an audience with God Most High. It's a little intimidating, at least to me. I purchased a book entitled Seven Sacred Pauses, which not only fed my brain about the historical practice of praying the hours, but provided me with written prayers and an order of prayer to follow hour by hour and day by day.
I set my phone alarm, many times, and I began.
I should share that I do not successfully keep all the hours every day. I don't know that I have been awake for vigils more than once or twice. The 6pm hour tends to be difficult with family, dinner, or evening obligations that I am keeping. I regret not being able to keep this one quite a bit because it is my favorite time of day and the vespers prayers I have kept are beautiful. I don't beat myself up over missing a time, however, and I am learning to be flexible and occasionally arrange my hours around other things (for instance, when Olivia had an 11:45am doctor appointment, I didn't think it was out of line to pray my mid-day prayer when we got home at 1pm rather than miss it altogether), but for the most part I try to arrange my life to around these appointed times rather than arrange the times around my life. After all, arranging God around my life tends to be where I get in the most trouble in the first place.
I'd love to report that every time of prayer is a soaring success in which I walk away refreshed, enlightened and embraced in my soul, but that also wouldn't be true. Sometimes I am distracted, hurried, not as engaged as I'd like to be, but prayer is a discipline, not a Holy Spirit shooter. It takes time to learn how to sink into it, how to focus, how to center on the Center. I'm no longer always using formatted, pre-written prayers, though I still find a great deal of comfort and depth in liturgy, and at least half of my hours each day follow liturgical format. As I walk the hours each day I realize more and more how necessary this constant redirecting of my thoughts truly is. I find myself a bit more oriented each day to the True Center, and I realize, with great dismay, how very quickly and how far I drift without hourly reorienting.
I'm a tiny child on the beginning of a life long journey into the vastness of God, but I am on the journey. Forward is the only direction I choose to go.
Other books that I am reading or have read recently on prayer:
A Book of Hours by Thomas Merton
Contemplative prayer by Thomas Merton
Common Prayer: A liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne
Everything Belongs: the gift of contemplative prayer by Richard Rohr
Circle Maker by Mark Batterson
Sanctuary of the Soul: A journey into Meditative Prayer by Richard Foster