In the summer while travelling and staying with people it seemed very difficult to maintain a pattern of personal prayer. I more or less manged to do a bit of reading and reflection in the mornings before getting out of bed, but apart from that it was mainly the beauty of nature that brought me to stillness and the appreciation of the Creator God. This has always been an important part of my view of the world and expression of faith, and of course by being on the move and spending time with family and friends you learn a great deal about them, the world and yourself.
However, it is finally now after being back for some days and settling down again that I notice how good it is to return to the regular prayer pattern. In our times of common prayer, unless we just sit in silence for half an hour, we often sing Taizé songs and have a short reading from the Bible. I like the Celtic Daily Prayer book which gives two annual cycles of readings and meditations as well as the Northumbria Community’s liturgies for the daily office and some special services which can be done with smaller or larger groups of people in the home. In addition there is a calendar of some saints’ days and material for celebrating them. We often dip into these texts as a guide to our meditation, but the main element of the prayer is silence.
One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
The psalm describes well my longing to be near God and to dedicate time to staying in his presence. This was probably the main motivation for my desire for community life and it’s important to me that the whole community gathers together and supports each other in observing the agreed times. Because without that structure, even though I long to have that prayerful time and acknowledge its importance, I would get the priorities wrong and something else would take precedence over the prayer.
In the silence I can, with the help of picking a word or two from the Bible reading, clear the worries of the day off my mind and focus on the divine qualities of God and his will for me instead. This helps me to trust him completely and abandon the situations and people of my life to his care. The way which I describe here is similar to the practice of lectio divina: please look it up if you are interested.