America's propensity to see
ourselves as God's new chosen nation has often led us to claim scripture
directed at Israel (or Judah) as promises for ourselves. While such
thinking generally makes me squirm, I can re-apply such interpretations
to see how they apply to the modern world.
Prayer. We read, write, talk and agonize about it, resolve to do it, wish we’d done it more than we actually do it. In this it resembles other pursuits of which people overestimate the intensity, frequency and duration—such as reading, writing and sex.
"I want my seminary experience to form me as a person of prayer.” We had never heard a student state this desire so eloquently and succinctly. We sensed in this comment something much more than a first-year student’s desire for greater piety in the school environment. This student had done extremely well at a college with a strong undergraduate program.
We call prayer at Taizé “common prayer,” not the “office,” which suggests a work obligation: “We do our office,” “We do what we ought to do.” That doesn’t correspond to the way we experience prayer in our lives. To say prayer is “common” is to say that it brings us together.
For Those We Love But See No Longer: Daily Offices for Times of Grief by Lisa Belcher Hamilton Venite: A Book of Daily Prayer by Robert Benson Celtic Benediction: Morning and Night by J. Philip Newell The Prymer: The Prayer Book of the Medieval Era Adapted for Contemporary Use, translated and adapted by Robert E. Webber
In one of the most famous sermons ever delivered, John Donne described the challenge of retaining concentration during prayer. The year was 1626. The occasion was the funeral sermon for Sir William Cockayne.
I was out of the country recently when a member of my congregation died. When this happens I feel the pain of being unable to do anything helpful, and a little guilt as well. That’s when I relearn a basic lesson in ecclesiology: I belong to a community of faith that knows how to be a church in my absence.