Saturday, March 14, 2009

Christian Life of Prayer

Detail of the Ghent Altarpiece by Jan Van Eyck 1430

"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them on the door-posts of your house and on your gates" (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).

Prayer and meditation is gracious invitation by God to cast our cares on him, with full assurance that our prayers will be answered. Though prayer is often times spontaneous and from the heart (ex corde), we should also consider it fixed, with a certain form, and repeititious that we might internalize prayer and make it part of our ontological makeup. In Luke 11:2 Jesus tell the disciples "When you pray, say: Father, hallowed by thy name..." Notice our Lord does not say pray "something like this" but actually provides the sweetest words of heaven, for they come from God himself. The Lord's prayer therefore is an outline of personal prayer and the ultimate model for the entire church. We can never exhaust it throughout the day and we may let it speak for us and form our prayers throughout the day (I have written about the Lord's Prayer here).

Due to sin and general laziness, a disciplined prayer schedule is necessary. If it were left to me to pray when I felt like it, or when it is convenient I would rarely or never get around to it. Submitting to a prayer schedule is necessary for me, for extemporaneous prayers are few and far between. It is a delight to pray the psalms and daily sing historic hymns with the brothers. A blessed way for Christ to make theologian is to pray the psalms for in this way we become entrenched in the Lord’s very vocabulary. Therefore theology may "do us" rather than us "doing theology." For the Lord gave us the psalms that we might pray them with him. We know that Jesus himself prayed them in the synagogue and most likely knew them by heart. We know from the scriptures that Jesus prayed the psalms as he was dying on the cross. In this way God prays the psalms with us, it is the songbook of our faith. They are the words that will echo in the halls of heaven with armies of angels. Singing is a natural consequence of receiving the pure doctrine of our Lord. Why would one pray without singing or go about the day without singing psalms, hymns, and versicles of the divine liturgy? It is impossible to be without continuous song and singing if one is given the faith of our Lord. Many church goers unfortunately are deprived of the pure doctrine, the sacraments, and historic catholic Christianity, and therefore are without voice and without song. Instead they have an intellectual or scholarly discourse about the bible and lord over the scriptures instead of receiving Christ (for truely receiving is the only way to worship).

I have written about the Daily Office of prayer here.

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