Morning Prayers

Morning Prayers
Image: Don Christner

In last week’s blog – Shadows – I had this notion that I would explore the idea of Lent in a way that might make the season and practice more accessible for those for whom it might be new, perhaps even unknown. And the reality is that for a majority of people in our Canadian mosaic of diversity this is the majority!

As I completed last week’s blog, I began to muse about this one and it occurred to me that all of the focuses or practices that unfold for Christians during Lent may very fall into that same basket: unknown and/or (if we are to be honest) even irrelevant beyond our island of formal religion known as The United Church of Canada. Since I think this stuff is important to me, I’ve been wondering how I might explain some of the ways that we prepare during this time of year. So, I’ve decided to try to try to translate prayer in a way that might make sense for someone looking, someone who is searching and even doubting …

There are many understandings or approaches to prayer. These can range from asking for something (Petition) to the potential for personal or collective change (Transformative). What I have been interested in exploring – this time – is prayer as a way of intention. If Lent is a time of preparation and reflection, I have found that knowing my intentions is very important. The manner in which we explore them, therefore, even more so.

The reality is that you do not need to be a person who identifies with organised religion to recognise that sometimes we hurt ourselves and other people. More often than not, that is not consciously done. And – in those cases – it’s easier to create a story that allows us some relief from feelings of shame or blame. And – when actually intentional – the burden can be even heavier. Prayer – as way to look at our intentions – can help us to look into the mirror and name the difficult things we might rather avoid:

• Did I mean to hurt myself?
• Did I set her up so she could fail?
• Did I judge him, in order to feel better about myself?
• Did I dismiss their tears for fear I might have look into my own stuff?

Farewell Discourse

Farewell Discourse
Image: Duccio di Buoninsegna

The reality – I think this is a fair challenge – is that our modern, fast-paced culture of bling and bang does not encourage introspection. And – if we are aware of uncomfortable eddies below our surface – consuming and buying are often the only options that seem possible. For Christians, however, there is a relationship to which we are called and the health of that connexion is directly tied to how we treat ourselves, one another and Creation. In other words, without being grounded in who we are, it becomes too easy to live in the illusion that our actions do not impact those around us.

Ultimately, prayer as a practice of intention allows us to be better leaders (Disciples in Church-ese). Prayer as a discipline makes space to explore both our blessings and mistake in a way that leads to learning. And that learning helps not us grow and translates into better relationships when we claim and own choices that might have once been seen as ‘wrong,’ ‘bad,’ or ‘harmful’ but can now be understood as teachers from whom we have inherited a gift that allows us to do it differently, better next time. Prayer may not be easy when understood as intention, but as a 40 day practice it certainly possesses the possibility to embrace ourselves with compassion. And – such care – surely is what we all long to experience when we meet the Other …