Regular fixed prayers: rote or renewing?

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It’s hard to see from the porch.  Come inside.

The former Protestant in me, accustomed to extemporaneous prayers, offers an occasional objection; something about repeating the same old rote prayers day after day.

It started with an assortment of random Catholic prayers.  That led to downloading the iBreviary App.  By July 2018, after visiting St. Bernard Abbey’s bookstore in Cullman, Alabama, I began using Benedictine Daily Prayer, A Short Breviary.   Continuing to use it for daily readings, for Lent 2019 I’ve substituted The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary as I pray Lauds, Vespers and Compline each day.

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Now, the protest grows weaker and barely gets off the ground.  I do not use the Liturgy of the Hours.  Nor does my life permit praying the Hours at perfectly fixed times.  Even so, I’ve discovered several things about this ancient practice.  As I pray,

  1. I consume large chunks of Sacred Scripture; 
  2. The Word of God, living and active, renews me;
  3. As C.S. Lewis taught me long ago, what might seem rote actually is digging channels in dry soil; readying oneself for the rains to come;
  4. Thoughts and ideas appear out of the blue; 
  5. The day’s problems are seen through eternal lenses; 
  6. Much of prayer becomes, not my words to God, but God’s Word to me;
  7. On paper, praying Lauds or Vespers or Compline might look the same, for example, every fourth Monday, but it never is; always and without fail I’m different; others are different; and circumstances are different;
  8. Especially at Lauds, I’m doing what the works of God (sun and moon, heaven and earth, powers and spirits, fish and fowl, all the sons of men) are supposed to do at all times:  bless and praise the name of the Lord;
  9. Unlike angels of God and unlike inanimate nature, by God’s grace and the gift of faith, I’m doing it volitionally and with an added dimension:  this is my Redeemer who calls me friend and brother and son; and 
  10. I get regular, much needed opportunities throughout the day to recalibrate my prone-to-wander soul.

Discovering regular, fixed prayers is not unlike my discovery of the Catholic Church as a whole.  It’s hard to see from the porch.  Once inside, it’s completely different.

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AS FOR ME, I KNOW THAT MY VINDICATOR LIVES, AND THAT HE WILL AT LAST STAND FORTH UPON THE DUST. THIS WILL HAPPEN WHEN MY SKIN HAS BEEN STRIPPED OFF, AND FROM MY FLESH I WILL SEE GOD: I WILL SEE FOR MYSELF, MY OWN EYES, NOT ANOTHER’S, WILL BEHOLD HIM: MY INMOST BEING IS CONSUMED WITH LONGING. JOB 19:25-27

 

ONE LORD.  ONE FAITH.  ONE BAPTISM.

Author: Danny Collier

Catholic husband, father, lawyer

4 thoughts on “Regular fixed prayers: rote or renewing?”

  1. Just a scriptural note.

    Example of vain repetition

    1 Kings 18:26-29
    “26 They took the bull and prepared it, and from morning to midday they called on the name of Baal. ‘O Baal, answer us!’ they cried, but there was no voice, no answer, as they performed their hobbling dance round the altar which they had made.
    27 Midday came, and Elijah mocked them. ‘Call louder,’ he said, ‘for he is a god: he is preoccupied or he is busy, or he has gone on a journey; perhaps he is asleep and needs to be woken up!’
    28 So they shouted louder and gashed themselves, as their custom was, with swords and spears until the blood flowed down them.
    29 Midday passed, and they ranted on until the time when the offering is presented; but there was no voice, no answer, no sign of attention.”

    Repetition that is not vain

    Ps.136:1-26 ( your numbering may be one more or one less I’m not sure.)
    “for his faithful love endures for ever” This refrain is repeated 26 times.
    Daniel 3:57-88 “Bless the Lord “ used 32 times.
    Matthew 26:39-44
    39 And going on a little further he fell on his face and prayed. ‘My Father,’ he said, ‘if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless, let it be as you, not I, would have it.’
    40 He came back to the disciples and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, ‘So you had not the strength to stay awake with me for one hour?
    41 Stay awake, and pray not to be put to the test. The spirit is willing enough, but human nature is weak.’
    42 Again, A SECOND TIME, he went away and prayed: ‘My Father,’ he said, ‘if this cup cannot pass by, but I must drink it, your will be done!’
    43 And he came back again and found them sleeping, their eyes were so heavy.
    44 Leaving them there, he went away again and prayed for THE THIRD TIME, repeating the same words.”

    Romans 1:9-10 “9 God, whom I serve with my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness that I CONTINUALLY mention you in my prayers,
    10 asking always that by some means I may at long last be enabled to visit you, if it is God’s will.”

    Revelation 4:8
    “8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was studded with eyes all the way round as well as inside; and DAY AND NIGHT they never stopped singing: Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God, the Almighty; who was, and is and is to come.’
    9 EVERY TIME the living creatures glorified and honoured and gave thanks to the One sitting on the throne, who lives for ever and ever,
    10 the twenty-four elders prostrated themselves before him to worship the One who lives for ever and ever, and threw down their crowns in front of the throne, saying:
    11 You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you made the whole universe; by your will, when it did not exist, it was created.”

    Psalm 136:
    ” Alleluia! Give thanks to Yahweh for he is good, for his faithful love endures for ever.
    2 Give thanks to the God of gods, for his faithful love endures for ever.
    3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his faithful love endures for ever.
    4 He alone works wonders, for his faithful love endures for ever.
    5 In wisdom he made the heavens, for his faithful love endures for ever.
    6 He set the earth firm on the waters, for his faithful love endures for ever.
    7 He made the great lights, for his faithful love endures for ever.
    8 The sun to rule the day, for his faithful love endures for ever.
    9 Moon and stars to rule the night, for his faithful love endures for ever.
    10 He struck down the first-born of Egypt, for his faithful love endures for ever.
    11 He brought Israel out from among them, for his faithful love endures for ever.
    12 With mighty hand and outstretched arm, for his faithful love endures for ever.
    13 He split the Sea of Reeds in two, for his faithful love endures for ever.
    14 Let Israel pass through the middle, for his faithful love endures for ever.
    15 And drowned Pharaoh and all his army, for his faithful love endures for ever.
    16 He led his people through the desert, for his faithful love endures for ever.
    17 He struck down mighty kings, for his faithful love endures for ever.
    18 Slaughtered famous kings, for his faithful love endures for ever.
    19 Sihon king of the Amorites, for his faithful love endures for ever.
    20 And Og king of Bashan, for his faithful love endures for ever.
    21 He gave their land as a birthright, for his faithful love endures for ever.
    22 A birthright to his servant Israel, for his faithful love endures for ever.
    23 He kept us in mind when we were humbled, for his faithful love endures for ever.
    24 And rescued us from our enemies, for his faithful love endures for ever.
    25 He provides food for all living creatures, for his faithful love endures for ever.
    26 Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his faithful love endures for ever.”

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