matterofprayer blog post for Sunday, February 23, 2014
I Got Rhythm—in Prayer?
I keep banging up against that scary word “discipline.” It’s related to the daunting and also-scary word “self-control.” Yeah. Those are two things I do not have in abundance.
I’ve talked about my struggles with prayer here before. How I can’t seem to get truly consistent in prayer (that is, daily, as in every day). However, I am pleased to say that I followed the Advent prayer calendar in December with only two or three days missed. Still, I haven’t successfully done the daily prayer-thing, ever.
Boy, I felt guilt. (Again, I might add. Not as much as years ago, when I was involved with a bunch of legalistic Christians, but still.) Even though I knew that God wasn’t mad at me, I couldn’t help but suspect God was the tiniest bit disappointed. Maybe more than the tiniest bit, sometimes.
And then—I came across a page in a book on prayer that I’m regularly using for my prayer and meditation time. Last week was when it happened. The book is by the Rev. Martin Smith, a skilled spiritual director and now a retired Episcopal priest. (His book The Word Is Very Near You is subtitled A Guide to Praying with Scripture.) On page 70, Fr. Martin mentions the word “rhythm” in association with the prayer and meditative life.
The sentences I was particularly struck with run as follows: “For some people the word ‘discipline’ has overtones of unyielding regulation and stern subjection of spontaneity, but rhythm belongs in all organic life. . . . Unless we take responsibility for the patterning of our lives others will dictate to us how to live.” I appreciate the idea of there being a rhythm to prayer and meditation. This rhythm reminded me somewhat of Ecclesiastes 3, and the rhythm inherent to life. Rhythm is similar to time, and time is a focus of Ecclesiastes chapter 3.
Rhythm is also an integral part of music. Since I am musical and can read music notation quite well, I relate to such an analogy. If I consider my life punctuated with prayer, in a sort of a rhythm, that makes good sense to me. I understand that, and I don’t end up feeling guilty! (Well, at least not as guilty.) And just as rhythm is a foundational part of the patterning of music, so rhythm can aid in the patterning of my life with prayer and meditation.
Now, some may think this is an easy way out of daily prayer and meditation. For some, yes. But I felt loaded down with guilt and depression. True, the guilt was only here occasionally. But sometimes, it got really bad! Here, Fr. Martin told me about rhythm! Rhythm, that regular yet pulsing, periodic downbeat of music. This was something I could understand! What an assist for my prayer time! Thanks to everyone who took the time for me, so I could find the time to pray.
Let’s pray. Dear God, thank You for granting us all access to You. Thank You for the invitation to come and see you each day. Each of us has pains, hurts, and worse. But You are faithful. You are merciful. Please help me to continue with the rhythm of prayer. In Your name, Amen.