matterofprayer blog post for Thursday, March 13, 2014
Practice Makes Perfect? Doing Lenten Practices
Lenten disciplines can be a blessing! But I find Lenten disciplines also take time and effort. And sometimes, diligence. I’m pretty good at the time-part. Yes, I’ll willingly spend time doing a set spiritual practice. I’m also fairly good at the effort-part. God knows I am willing to serve, to lend a hand, to lift someone or something up in prayer. And, I certainly pitch in to write a bible study or sermon if needed.
However—it’s that diligence-part that frightens me. Well, not exactly frighten, but diligence makes me hesitate. Take a deep breath, and consider. The thought of diligence causes me to take a step backwards. Maybe two steps. As two of my children used to say when they were toddlers and preschoolers, I’m shy of diligence. I could say that I’m a chicken, at heart. (Chicken-hearted, perhaps? No, that doesn’t sound good, either.)
It’s a good thing that there are so many helps today. Bible studies, Scripture verses-of-the-day, prayers that come straight to a smart phone or as tweets on Twitter. These helpful tools make things a good deal easier than they were even as few as twenty or thirty years ago. Even then (when I first made my baby-steps toward spiritual disciplines and practices), there were booklets or even books of Lenten devotions. Also Lenten prayer calendars, similar to my 40 Days & Ways to Serve.
(Shameless plug: if you haven’t signed up for the calendar of service, it’s not too late! You can sign up now at the right of this very blog post, and I’ll rush it straight to your email box!)
As a part of my Lenten practice, I am using one of these devotional booklets, a selection of snippets from the collected writings of Fr. Henri Nouwen. I find it helpful. Inspiring. But then, Nouwen’s books have been amongst my absolute favorites for many years.
But let’s turn back to diligence—even though I wish we wouldn’t. I get uneasy when I consider diligence too long. I went to Webster’s Dictionary to find out exactly why, and I turned to a related word: “diligent.” Not surprisingly, the meaning makes me duck down in my seat. “Perseveringly attentive. Industrious.” God, the definition of this word makes me shrink. And perhaps, even want to hide myself under the blankets. True, not all the time. But enough to make me wonder. (Light bulb moment: maybe this is something to bring up with my spiritual director next time we meet! Food for thought.) My Lenten practices are going pretty well, considering. I hope and pray yours are, as well.
Speaking of prayer, let’s pray! Dear God, thank You for practices to help each of us get closer to You. Thank You for this time of preparation before Easter. Forgive us when we fall short, or fall asleep, or fall away from You—and bring us back. Hold us close, and help each one know how special each of us is to You. In Your mercy and by Your grace, Amen.