It’s just a week-long assignment, but it might become part of my life.
I’ve not grown up with liturgy, though in recent years the psalms have become my daily prayer companions. But this week, slowing four times a day to pray words penned by others, I find myself breathing deep release, letting go and becoming small, welcomed into a rhythm and a call and a Body much bigger than I. I take my place as one of many brothers and sisters, all unique and all deeply loved. I am surrounded and accompanied by a cloud of witnesses, and experience the church as a minister of grace in a way I have not often experienced in the past.
In becoming small, I become bigger too, drawn out of my self where I can live curved inwards. Not only am I led into prayer as part of the global body of Christ, I am asked to pray for this church and the world. My own small problems attain perspective as this larger call breaks into my self-centeredness. It helps me do what I intend but too often fail to do: embrace the privilege of bringing a needy world into the welcoming arms of Jesus. It gives context for this intercession, too, reminding me of God’s sovereignty and love, and helping me release the world’s burdens into the arms of God.
It’s not all smooth. Sometimes the disciplined slowing rubs up against my old way of being in the world and I find myself wanting to hurry through to get back to “real” work, even in the absence of truly pressing deadlines. What in me resists being still before God even when I love it and want it? Does my ego still need to find identity in accomplishing tasks rather than receiving identity as gift? I have seen that the fruitful life and the busy life are not always one and the same.
We read it together, the surprising description of the kingdom:
“This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain. . .” (Mark 4:26-29)
A fellow student speaks, reminds us that (thank God!) the coming of God’s kingdom does not depend on us. We are not able, nor are we asked, “to manage the mystery. . . . We have a role to play, but sometimes that role is a passive one: we are slowly grown in Christ. . . and then the true harvest will come.” (Lydia Cruttwell)
This is true grace. . . welcomed to be part, but not given responsibility for the whole. The kingdom is God’s; He alone makes it grow. I need to slow every few hours – even for a few moments – to remember that I am not God, and to bring to him the praises and burdens that fit His shoulders alone.
(A good resource for daily prayer, Celebrating Common Prayer, can be found here in pdf format. Click on each day of the week under the fourth main heading (“The office”) for suggested prayers and readings for each day which can be adapted as needed.)