Liturgy and Prayer

Some of us are poorer for the loss of liturgy: a rich source of theological truth and a salve to souls who grope for the right words in prayer. Thanks to social media and other factors, we all need an extra measure of discipline to focus intentionally. In my experience, liturgy helps focus my affections toward God in the spiritual discipline of prayer.

As much as I like the beauty of the morning, I’m not a “morning person.” Even so, the morning is really the only time I have a chance of having enough sandbags filled to stop the flood of the world crowding out my thoughts toward God. Having a liturgy of prayer, not just a devotional, can help focus my wayward mind on dedicating the day to the Lord. By the time I have had my coffee, the world has already made its incursions into my solitude. I have to admire and respect those with little children who can somehow maintain this kind of focus in prayer.

I didn’t always recognize the value of liturgy. A lingering holdover from my theological background is the idea that if I’m reading from a liturgy, however theologically deep or doctrinally true it may be, that I’m not really praying, but only reading someone else’s words. But in the morning, words from my heart toward God are frozen, like in a dream when you need to save someone from a dreadful mishap, but you can’t move your limbs. You want to, you know you must, but you can’t!

So a few years ago I became acquainted with the Anglican/Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer. It’s not from my tradition (I’m southern Baptist), but this or something like it is a practical help I need to dedicate the day to the Lord. Especially helpful for me is a prayer in the “Forms of Prayer to be used in Families”:

O God, the King eternal, who dividest the day from the darkness, and turnest the shadow of death into the morning; Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to keep thy law, and guide our feet into the way of peace; that having done thy will with cheerfulness while it was the day, we may, when the night cometh, rejoice to give thee thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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