The other day I was asked by the local ministerial association if I would be willing to share something on our prayer retreat next Tuesday at Camp Elim. I agreed. The request was put to me like this: we want to hear something from a mainline tradition. Now, I’m not sure how mainline I am… perhaps compared to some of the evangelical traditions with the ministerial I am mainline… I often feel that I’m not particularly mainline when I get together with other Anglican clergy, though. At any rate, it was put to me that I might say something about devotional practice where I come from.
This got me thinking about the daily offices. If you look at the bottom of the page on our church website, you’ll find the readings for both Morning and Evening Prayer. The whole of Scripture in a year, the whole book of Psalms each month. This is how the Book of Common Prayer lays it out. For those of us who do engage in daily prayer, setting time aside for prayer rather than offering prayer up in whatever breaks we find throughout the day (not that a person couldn’t practice both!), I think these words of John Chrysostom are particularly relevant. They relate to Isaiah 6:1-8, which was a lection this last Sunday:
Do you desire to learn how the powers above pronounce that name; with what awe, with what terror, with what wonder? “I saw the Lord,” says the prophet, “sitting on a throne, high, and lifted up; around him stood the seraphim; and one cried to another and said, ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’” Do you perceive with what dread, with what awe, they pronounce that name while glorifying and praising him? But you, in your prayers and supplications, call on him with much listlessness; when it would become you to be full of awe and to be watchful and sober!
Homily Concerning the Statues 7.9
The Anglican tradition sprouts from the monasticism of the British Isles. The daily offices are intended to preserve the order of the monastery, for the average person. That is, the prayers of the Church become the constant of the day, morning and evening, and so become the context that the rest of life takes place within. So let’s not be too familiar with God. He makes Himself present to us in such familiar ways at His prerogative. Let us remember our place, and not cheapen His initiative. We are to approach Him in prayer with fear and trembling, in awe and wonder. Let us not take Him for granted. Let us not forget His grace. Perhaps it is this context-setting prayer tradition of my mainline church, that I’ll be sharing next Tuesday.
God bless each of you in your own devotion to Him.