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A Window Into Daily Prayer
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49e12467eb82c3d996f02bc5745b5dbcOn Sunday we looked at Daniel 6 and Daniel’s daily habit of praying and praising God three times a day with his window open toward Jerusalem. While it’s the story of the lion’s den that gets all the press (and all the songs) in that chapter, none of what Daniel does in the entire book would be possible, I believe, if it were not for this daily habit. Daniel’s integrity, his courage, his ability to state clearly what he believed without being difficult, and his willingness to accept the consequences of his beliefs were forged in those regular encounters with his God.

 

Most of us know this, but for many of the daily habit of prayer is difficult. It’s not that we don’t want to pray or that we don’t see it as vitally important–it’s just that it’s, well, hard to do. Establishing any good habit is like that (conversely, it’s much easier to start and maintain bad ones!). Most studies reveal that it takes about 30 days of doing something repetitively in order to make it a habit and, if Malcolm Gladwell is right, it takes about 10,000 hours of practice at a particular skill or habit in order for it to become like muscle memory.

 

Perhaps one of our problems is that we view prayer as an obligation rather than an opportunity. We think of it as another thing to check off on our to-do list rather than seeing it as a means of grace that brings us directly into the presence of God. Daniel’s communion with God seemed to be very personal. Looking toward Jerusalem each day, he used his imagination to take himself into the temple, into God’s presence, and thus could speak to God in personal terms. And while his prayer may have been spontaneous, it’s likely that he at least began each session by praying prayers he had been taught as a boy–prayers like the “Shema” in Deuteronomy 6:4-8, which reminded him over and over again that there is one God and that his people are to love him with their heart, soul, mind, and strength. A pattern of long-established prayers, along with our spontaneous correspondence with God, gives us a good foundation for developing the kind of prayer habit that can shape us like it shaped Daniel.

 

This is one of the things I admire most about our Anglican brothers and sisters. Their Book of Common Prayer is set up for this kind of daily encounter–with morning and evening sessions of prayer that include written prayers, readings from the Psalms, Old Testament, and Gospel, and prompts for intercessory prayer. It’s the kind of thing that I wish the Methodists had taken with them when they left the Church of England–then again, perhaps we can recapture that tradition! I have used the 1662 version of The Book of Common Prayer in my own prayer life and the more I have used it, the more it shapes me. I find myself looking forward to those daily encounters with God. On the other hand, I also know that when I get out of that habit of a daily rhythm of prayer, I tend to be somewhat scattered in spirit, body, and mind.

 

As you consider your own prayer life, or perhaps your desire to get into a Daniel-inspired prayer life, here are a couple of suggestions for resources that may be helpful:

 

The Daily Office App – This is a marvelous app that you can download on your phone that gives you what is essentially an updated Book of Common Prayer that you can access daily. No matter where you are, you can open the app and work through the prayers and readings for morning and evening.

 

The Field Guide to Daily Prayer and The Field Guide to Family Prayer – These are helpful, pocket-sized booklets containing the Daily Office as well as prayers for different occasions. We stock these at church and have them available for purchase.

 

The Book of Common Prayer – Of course, you can go straight to the source and grab an updated version. The Anglican Church in North America just came out with a new one that looks fantastic and it’s downloadable for free.

 

Then again, you could just decide that you are going to set aside time three times a day to just be quiet in God’s presence. No resource is required for that. It’s not so much what you use or how you prayer, but rather that you pray and see prayer as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with God and develop the kind of soul-set and mind-set you need for living life in Babylon.



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