Thursday, March 10, 2011

pray always...

During Lent, this space will focus on the veiws and practices of the "Boston Unitarians" on prayer. I have felt that my own prayer life has become lackluster-a dry spell-and I want to work on that this Lenten season. Today, the basics from William Ellery Channing in his "Daily Prayer."

The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments agree in enjoining prayer. Let no man call himself a Christian, who lives without giving a part of life to this duty. We are not taught how often we must pray; but our Lord in teaching us to say, "Give us this day our daily bread," implies that we should pray daily. He has even said to us, "pray always ;" an injunction to be explained indeed with that latitude which many of his precepts require, but which is not to be satisfied, we think, without regular and habitual devotion. As to the particular hours to be given to this duty, every Christian may choose them for himself. Our religion is too liberal and spiritual to bind us to any place or any hour of prayer. But there are parts of the day particularly favorable to this duty, and which, if possible, should be redeemed for it. On these we shall offer a few reflections.
The first of these periods is the morning, which even nature seems to have pointed out to men of different religions, as a fit time for offerings to the Divinity. In the morning our minds are not so much shaken by worldly cares and pleasures, as in other parts of the day. Retirement and sleep have helped to allay the violence of our feelings, to calm the feverish excitement so often produced by intercourse with men. The hour is a still one. The hurry and tumults of life are not begun, and we naturally share in the tranquillity around us. Having for so many hours lost our hold on the world, we can banish it more easily from the mind, and worship with less divided attention. This, then, is a favorable time for approaching the invisible Author of our being, for strengthening the intimacy of our minds with him, for thinking upon a future life, and for seeking those spiritual aids which we need in the labors and temptations of every day...
So fit and useful is morning devotion, it ought not to be omitted without necessity. If our circumstances will allow the privilege, it is a bad sign when no part of the morning is spent in prayer. If God find no place in our minds at that early and peaceful hour, he will hardly recur to us in the tumults of life. If the benefits of the morning do not soften us, we can hardly expect the heart to melt with gratitude through the day. If the world then rush in and take possession of us, when we are at some distance and have had a respite from its cares, how can we hope to shake it off when we shall be in the midst of it, pressed and agitated by it on every side? Let a part of the morning, if possible, be set apart to devotion; and to this end we should fix the hour of rising, so that we may have an early hour at our own disposal. Our piety is suspicious, if we can renounce, as too many do, the pleasures and benefits of early prayer, rather than forego the senseless indulgence of unnecessary sleep. What! we can rise early enough for business. We can even anticipate the dawn, if a favorite pleasure or an uncommon gain requires the effort. But we cannot rise, that we may bless our great Benefactor, that we may arm ourselves for the severe conflicts to which our principles are to be exposed! We are willing to rush into the world, without thanks offered, or a blessing sought! From a day thus begun, what ought we to expect but thoughtlessness and guilt?"

Evening prayer...this evening.

(painting: William Hunt, "Morning Prayer")

1 comment:

David G. Markham said...

Great advice from Rev. Channing on morning prayer. It makes a lot of sense. Of course, I am a morning lark not a night owl and so, as a Psychotherapist, I am always amazed at how people's circadian rhythms affect their lives without much conscious awareness. I try to bring this idea of circadian rhythm to their attention and as soon as I do they can usually tell me if they are a morning lark or a night owl or perhaps they on in the middle but some people have a clear preference if they are allowed to set their own routine.

So the question is how do circadian rhythms affect our prayer life?

I pray best in the morning. I am more alert and aware. In evening I am tired and more foggy if you know what I mean.

However, in the morning prayer allows us to committ ourselves to living more intentionally and conscioiusly which is a good thing for our spiritual life I think.

Thanks for a great posting.