Monday, September 16, 2013

Morning Prayer

My prayer room altar, complete w/incense.
My wife Alyssa is currently in Kenya for two weeks attending a training event for teachers of nonviolent conflict mediation. Needless to say, with no one else in the house, I’ve had a lot of free time on my hands, and have experienced periods of stir-craziness. In the meantime, I've started praying a little more often than usual. This has been partly inspired by a longtime love affair with both private and communal liturgical prayer, but also partly because I was moved to pick up the practice again after reading Richard Beck’s posts on praying the Anglican rosary over at his blog, Experimental Theology. I used to enjoy communal prayer much more than personal prayer, but over the last year or two I have begun to appreciate my alone time with God much more. This is due in part to experience with trial, error, and persistence in my own personal prayer life, and in part to the fact that the vast majority of the people I know aren't that into the idea of waking up in the wee hours of the morning for liturgical prayer.

I converted my tiny 9’x15’ home office—which I never used as an office, anyway—into a prayer room, and set up a small altar with candles and a cross in front of my wall of icons. Taking cues from Beck, last week I went out and purchased the materials to make my own set of prayer beads. I now use them for my centering prayer routine (see below). For the crucifix I chose the San Damiano Cross, which inspired and initiated the ministry of St. Francis of Assisi. It is an iconic (in the sense that it is an icon) crucifix that depicts a poor, humble, broken Christ, surrounded by figures from the Gospel narratives.

The set of prayer beads I made last week.
For prayer and lectio divina I have used various books in the past, including Claiborne, Wilson-Hartgrove, and Okoro's Common Prayer, Isaac Everett's The Emergent Psalter, and Joan Chittister's The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century (see my review on this particular book here). I'm currently using This Day: A Wesleyan Way of Prayer, by Laurence Hull Stookey (a throwback to my days as a United Methodist), but I am also expecting my copy of the two-volume Take Our Moments And Our Days: An Anabaptist Prayer Book to come in the mail any day now, and I'm looking forward to trying it out when it arrives.

After sitting down and lighting a charcoal of resin frankincense, this is the current layout of my morning prayer routine (based in part on Stookey's prayer book mentioned above):

1)    Gloria Patri
2)    Introductory Reflection—this reading is included in Stookey’s material.
3)    Opening Prayer
4)    Centering Prayer—for this, I use my rosary. My adapted rosary prayer follows this format:
a.     Invitatory Bead: Gloria Patri
b.     Cruciform Beads: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”
c.     Weeks Beads: Deut. 6:5 + Lev. 19:18 + Matt. 5:44
5)  Prayer for Illumination
6)  Psalm—for the psalm I use The Revised Grail Psalms: A Liturgical Psalter, by Abbot Gregory J. Polan, OSB. Gregory is the Abbot of Conception Abbey, a Benedictine monastery just a couple hours north of Kansas City. I have visited the abbey a few times, and have always enjoyed my stays there, particularly the way the brothers and fathers chant the Psalter. My particular edition of this book features the musical notation devised for chanting by the monks at Conception.
7)   OT, Epistle, and Gospel Readings—these usually follow the lectionary.
8)   Silent contemplation—a time for reflection on the readings and prayer for others.
9)   Acts Appropriate to the Day of the Week—this is a short reflective prayer that is specific to the current day of the week.
 10)   Lord’s Prayer
 11)   Gloria Patri

The whole endeavor takes about 30 minutes from start to finish (or roughly the time it takes to burn through one charcoal’s worth of incense).

I know many folks think it unusual for a Mennonite to be such an avid liturgical pray-er, but I find the liturgy itself to be (potentially) incredibly freeing. And the Anabaptists are all about freedom, right?

Do you have a prayer routine? Have you developed your own form of prayer, or do you use someone else’s?


  1. I'm not all that familiar with the rosary, so I'll make sure to read Beck's piece. He may answer this question, but is there something unique to the Anglican version that differentiates it from the Catholic version?

  2. Ha! Glad you got your question answered, Brian. Someone recently also brought to my attention the Eastern Orthodox prayer rope, which I had never heard of before spending time working on my prayer beads.