This article originally appeared in the PRAYER (SILENCE) issue of Spit & Spirit
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I’m wearing sweatpants and a hoodie—with the hood pulled up—and I walk down the steps, the cold wood creaking under my bare feet. No one is awake yet and I use the moment to pour myself a cold glass of water into a mason jar that I grab from a collection on the kitchen shelf.
Moments later, the others begin to arrive. Some groggy, some chipper, and we sit down in the living room of 3234 Potter Street. I hardly know these people, we met the day before. I’m in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to meet the folks at The Simple Way—a web of subversive friends, conspiring to spread the vision of “Loving God, Loving People, and Following Jesus” in our neighborhoods and in our world—to talk about working with them.
I’m joining them for morning prayer.
It’s my first time praying any sort of “daily office” — this day, we read from a Celtic Book of Daily Prayer.
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you,
wherever He may send you.
May He guide you through the wilderness,
protect you through the storm.
May He bring you home rejoicing
at the wonders He has shown you.
May He bring you home rejoicing
once again into our doors.
Growing up, I was taught to have a 15 minute daily quiet time. I got different advice on that: pick a book of the Bible and work your way through it a paragraph or a chapter at a time, open up to a random page each morning, use a devotional book to guide your readings… The basic idea was the same though: spend time reading and praying by yourself each morning.
Praying the daily office is different. It is at times deeply personal—there are moments of silent prayer and introspection—but it is unmistakably communal.
At The Simple Way, we came together from houses all around the block to start our mornings together in prayer. We prayed the same office that others around the world pray, that the community in Northumbria has been praying for decades.
We come together in space, in structure, and through time.
Later in this issue, you’ll hear Shane Claiborne talk more in depth about prayer, silence, and specifically common prayer. He says that perhaps prayer isn’t so much about asking God to do what we want, but getting ourselves to do what God wants. I know that what I want certainly isn’t getting out of a comfy bed on a cold morning, but I also know that there is something about praying the daily office each day that works to transform my heart and mind.
It is a constant reminder that I am living for something bigger. On the days when I’m unconvinced that there’s a God to live for, the daily office reminds me that I’m still living for something bigger: I’m living for my family, my community, and the world.
A daily, ritualized prayer certainly isn’t unique to Christianity. We find it in fard as-salat and yoga, to name just two. And this all isn’t to say that a personal, solitary practice can’t be deeply fulfilling and vitally important. Of course it can be. In fact, we talk about that in other articles in this issue.
As a progressive, as an activist and organizer, as a digital strategist, I want to believe that I can make a difference, that I can change things, that with planning and persistence and stellar execution that everything will be OK.
The more I live and work in the world though, the more I am convinced that slogging forward on our own can only carry us so far. We are more powerful when we tap into something bigger than ourselves–God, faith, the Spirit, the Universe, our ancestors–and are open to being transformed by that.
I’m not going to pretend that I pray the office each day. I don’t. I won’t even say that it’s an ideal I’m aiming for.
What I will say is that, when I do, I find something deep and powerful and transformative there. And that’s worth exploring, don’t you think?
Lord, You have always given
strength for the coming day;
and though I am weak,
today I believe.
Want more togetherness?
Next week, we are opening registration for Queer Theology’s online community: Sanctuary Collective. There’s going to be discussions, video chats, book clubs and more. Join our mailing list to make sure that you don’t miss the announcement!