As I approached my sabbatical last summer I was eager to find a fresh approach to my devotional life. It was not that what I was doing wasn’t working for me but rather that I wanted to take full advantage of the break by changing as many of my daily routines as possible and seeing what I could learn from different ways of doing things.
Moreover, I had wanted to incorporate some set prayers into my devotional life for some time and this seemed to me to be the perfect opportunity.
A friend had recommended Daily Prayer, a contemporary version of the Anglican prayer book, which provides a framework for spending time in prayer up to three times a day. There was even an app I could download onto my phone or tablet, and it did not take me more than a few minutes of using it before I knew I was going to benefit from it.
Over time that appreciation grew.
I loved the combination of scripture readings, worship and prayers of intercession. I loved the space to combine the set prayers with more spontaneous ones. I appreciated the freedom to respond to the internal promptings and whispers in my spirit which had been a familiar part of my prayer life for years and which I did not want to lose.
It was somehow strengthening to pray prayers that have been prayed for hundreds of years by tens of thousands of believers and there were some wonderful turns of phrase that came from sentences that have been wrestled over to find just the right way of expressing them.
During the next 6 weeks I spent time most days praying through the morning service. It typically took me 20-30 minutes but it was easy to supplement this with further prayer, journaling or reading if I wanted to.
Since my sabbatical finished almost 6 months ago now I have continued to use it and you may want to give it a go and see if it works for you. Here are a few tips that I found helpful as I started to use it:
1) Do not feel you have to read everything that is laid out! It only works if you actually benefit from it.
Personally I read a Psalm, a NT and OT passage each time and tend to skip over some of the other scripture readings but make the most of the different prayers that are there.
2) Be sensitive to the Spirit’s promptings as you do it. One day recently I read the Psalm that was allocated for the day and found it came alive to me in some very exciting ways. I found that I wanted to read it a number of times, to make notes on what I was learning and then to pray about them. I never got any further that day but that was fine by me. These times are to strengthen my relationship with God not to tick an item of my ‘to do’ list.
3) Don’t be put off by the mention of saints of the past. Rather see them as members of your wider spiritual family and allow yourself to be grateful for the inspirational lives that they lived.
4) Use the shorter evening service as well as the morning one if you can. I have to confess that I don’t get to do this very often but I have found it wonderful when I have. The other evening I was riding home on the bus sometime before midnight feeling a little weary after a long day and I turned to the evening prayer.
To pray these familiar words was life giving:
“Forgive us our sins, heal us by your Spirit and raise us to new life in Christ, Amen”
Image: Common Worship Daily Prayer by James Ogley, used under CC