Thursday, 30 May 2019

Worship reflections: Prayers, Scripture, Hymns, Liturgy

originally journaled March 13, 2018

How do you worship?

For the past couple of years, I've been attending traditional Anglican services, where we use the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. At home I've been following The Divine Hours (P. Tickle) and Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals (S. Claiborne), and I've tried using centering prayer.

And I am feeling that back in the day, in the "tradition" I was raised in, we missed outto some degree, on the possibilities of prayer, though we prayed a lot.

We prayed a lot. At home we had prayer before meals, daily family worship, individual devotions, bedtime prayers, scripture memorization, and prayer whenever circumstances called for it, like someone sick, setting out on a road trip, praying before guests left, financial needs, or upcoming events.

At church, we had a fairly lengthy prayer (by the minister, usually) in each service, opening prayer for every special event or service, and weekly prayer meeting, when everybody could pray. All were extemporaneous (created on the spot) other than the Lord's Prayer.

Even at school, we all repeated the Lord's Prayer and listened to scripture reading each morning (until it was phased out during my high school years).

But the thing is, the emphasis was mostly on personal requests—for health, safety, finances, guidance, and so on. We didn't often use Scripture as a prayer itself or as a prayer pattern, other than the Lord's Prayer (though I suppose we did cover "Scriptural praise" through hymns and choruses). There was a very simple "liturgy" of prayers for communion, all repeated by the minister, that I remember from my early years, but that was mostly phased out in favour of, I think, being "creative" and "personal" and "non-traditional" and "modern."

We didn't, so far as I remember, draw much upon traditional prayers passed down through the church ages, nor did we use any of the church "creeds." I did learn the Apostle's Creed in our church's children's club in order to earn a badge—but with no context, no knowledge of where it came from or its significance. There seemed to be a great caution—fear even—of anything that smacked of "tradition," and we prided ourselves on being "non-liturgical" even though the weekly Sunday service bulletin proved we certainly followed a distinct pattern that was rarely deviated from and was, dare I say, religiously followed. A liturgy of our own, unrecognized as such?

Our church hymn book had a few simple liturgical passages in the back, which I don't ever remember being used, and a section of "responsive" readings from the Psalms which were used on rare occasions.

So in a sense, the hymns were our "congregational prayers" I guess. And worthy ones, at that. Happy and joyous, deep and repentant ... I think the hymn book was our "liturgy," and maybe when we gave up hymns, replacing them with "worship choruses" (which seem to me, on reflection, to be much more focused on "I" while the hymns were generally more focused on God and scripture), we lost an important part of our worship.

I still have a copy of one of the hymnbooks we used. Of "The Role of a Hymnal" it says:

"The faith and life of the church have always found expression and reinforcement through its hymnody....  The hymnal teaches and inspires. It expresses faith, hope, and love. It voices our experience and aspiration. It is a way to share. It is a rich source of biblical theology. It is where we join with the saints of other centuries in a common expression of joy, praise, and worship. It is a force for unity. It is a stimulus to Christian action and evangelism. It leads to God and to men. The combination of lyric and melody fastens truth upon the inner man."

All fine and good—and sounds very much like a description of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, doesn't it? So ... why have we so often cast aside the "deep things" of our common congregational worship? And is that casting aside of the long "traditions" of the church in liturgy, scripture reading, common prayers—and yes, hymns—a cause of so many people (including myself for a long time) drifting away from the church (and its Founder and Centre)? What do you think?

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Taking a leap

originally journaled Feb 26, 2018

Maybe I've crossed a bridge (or taken a leap, or been picked up and carried over a chasm or a wall or something by Your loving hands...) but yesterday for the first time in a very long time I had a sense of longing for You--like a "deer pants in the desert for springs of living water," you know.

I don't care so much about happiness and pleasure ... but I want Your joy!

I don't care so much about mushy human love and friends ... but I want the love of God and neighbours You offer and promise.

I don't care so much about solving wars and political upheavals and even religious/Christian ones ... but I long for contentment in You and Your peace that passes all human understanding in the hearts of people everywhere (because that's the only way true peace will ever come).

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Looking Back for Assurance and Thinking About Prayer

When I'm going through a "dry spell" (AKA wilderness experience), it's helpful to look back through my journals and be reminded of past moments when I was feeling more light. (A good reason to journal). Here's an  example:

(Journaled August 14, 2017)

Well! I had a wonderful "mini-retreat" kind of weekend ... and feel much more assured you love me, are with me, approve of me ... and are guiding me even when I don't "see" it in any emotional or "concrete" way. But on the other hand, this whole weekend has provided pretty concrete assurance You are in me, in my life.

Yes, I'd like to somehow be more "clearly Christian" and reach out to people more clearly and be surer that I'm including You in all my daily activities, but I am glad to know You are with and in me even without the "for sure, clearly."

The Flee, Be Silent, Pray book has been a great help and assurance, and I feel relieved at the thought of being able to have short devotional times a few times daily vs intensive many chapters of reading and long prayers.

I've been wondering about so many people with their "needs." I always remember hearing about that girl in India who would pray by name for 500 or 600 people every night. And great men of the church who'd pray for 4 or more hours a day on their knees in the closet or at their bedside, wearing dips right into the floor. And Susanna Wesley's prayer times with her apron over her head while her dozen kids ran around (though she did have a cook, gardener, and maids). 

We were so taught that real, great Christians prayed and prayed and prayed—until they "broke through"--though these mostly seemed to be clergymen with wives to take care of the home and family or single people without too many daily responsibilities. :-)

I've always been attracted more by Brother Lawrence's approach, which is much more related to being aware of and listening to You in all the little moments of the day (as explained in The Practice of the Presence of God). And the books I've been reading lately, like The Divine Hours and Contemplative Prayer and The Examen seem to line up with this path. I've been finding the Anglican Book of Common Prayer and Claiborne's Common Prayer helpful in this way, too.

Rational to Transcendent

(originally journaled Feb 9/18)

I was listening to a discussion on the radio about artificial intelligence (AI) and where it is taking us, and the difference between "super machine intelligence" and "general intelligence" (and how the latter is what—so far—separates us from AI). They were using the word "transcendent" and You spoke to me through that word.

I realized that in the past, my longing for study, though not "wrong," was more based on my "love of learning"--an intellectual, reasoning, rational approach—which now as I'm getting older, I am experiencing a longing to know You in a more intimate way. To grow into Your mind, as in "Put on the mind of Christ," and to live in Your love and allow You to share it with others through me.

Some years ago, I did go through times when I would hear You and write it down and share it with others. But then came a long period of depression and exhaustion—and avoiding "churchy" things—and I seemed to lose any ability to hear You.

I'm back to doing "devotions" again—scripture, hymns, Divine Hours, personal prayers—but so much of the time I end up feeling "but shouldn't there be more?"

Part of it, I know, is that I'm afraid to write things down that I do hear from You. Afraid of what people might think, yes. But also afraid to move from a rational (with a bit of emotional) knowing of You to a more transcendent relationship with You, the Transcendent One. Lord?