Friday, February 06, 2009

That Thing I Do Every Day

So I’m a campus minister these days. I catalog media, teach research methods, and talk about grace and judgment.* It’s pretty sweet, I won’t lie. So here’s my philosophy and practice of Christian ministry for the first year:
  1. Know and love these people well

  2. build a culture of prayer
Since I set foot on campus again in June, I’ve led the Daily Office nearly every weekday. Often I pray alone** but usually one or two other students will join me.

The Daily Office is shorthand for the Christian practice of “fixed-hour prayer.” Office means work. At various times in the day, Christians stop to attend to the presence of the Lord, read Scripture, pray portions of the Psalter, and to offer prayers for the sake of themselves, and others. Each of these regular services is called “an office.” There are three elements to this culture I’m trying to build – all of which are typically given lip service by the Evangelical culture, but not often practiced:
  1. Praying the Scripture. Not having, constructing, or sharing options about the Bible. Not deciding what it “means.” Not contriving “applications” to the “real world.” This is about taking seriously the idea that the Holy Scriptures are the Word of God by actually listening for the voice of God in the text. This is not about reading the Bible to “get something out of it,” but rather to spend time with the Lord simply for its own sake.

  2. Praying with others. I would surely like to see all Christians raising up holy hands for the sake of the world in the privacy of their “prayer closets,”*** but this practice is only one aspect of Christian prayer. Christians pray together. I meet a lot of disciples who can’t or won’t pray audibly in the presence of others – that tells me that we really need to spend time learning to pray. That’s just fine, because God intends to teach us how through the Scriptures and the ancient practices of his Church.

  3. Regular prayer. Our Master calls us to discipline ourselves for the sake of the Kingdom. One of the most basic ways for disciples to do this is by making the time for regular common prayer. We don’t pray just when we feel like it, and certainly not just because we feel like it. We are called to live lives steeped in Scripture, and to join in Christ’s priesthood offering prayers for the world because this is the stuff of God’s intention for our lives. Not because we feel like it, or even because we want to “grow spiritually,” but because we seek to be faithful to the one who loves us so very much, and intends to heal broken people through our ministries.
That’s my agenda for Year One. More shall be added for Year Two (it's not like I'm going to quit the first two points of the agenda, after all). Stay tuned, and thanks for reading.

Oh yeah - and feel free to join me for prayers any week day in the Campus Ministries Lounge at 4:30. We usually pray for 15-20 minutes.

*I’m also a library tech, hence the cataloging and judgment bits.

**Mind you, one never really prays “alone,” since we offer our praises to the Father, with Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and this along with the whole Communion of Saints.

***This phrase alludes to Jesus’ caution against making public prayers for the sake of impressing others with one’s eloquence or piety. He told them to go to their “closets.”


jmw said...

Good stuff, Amen.

SaintSimon said...

I used to be quite strongly against artificial prayer based on the hour of the day or the day of the week. After all, we live in daily communion with the Holy Spirit, don't we? Our whole life should be an ongoing conversation - and this is one of the advantages of the church over the Old Testament. And as an anaology, I don't set aside special times to talk to my wife, she's just there and I talk when there's a need.


Life is very busy. In the rush, you forget to TALK.. you exchange the information necessary for the practicalities of life, but you don't TALK. So my wife and I have recently set aside a regular time when we will sit down and eat and talk.

And in our prayer lives too, the ongoing conversation with the Holy Spirit becomes limited to the "Help me with my immediate crisis" prayers, that don't involve that deep communication of mutual love and desire.

We can't all do five times a day, but I'm seeing the value of regular times and hope that one day I'll make it.

Kyle said...

Glad you could join the club - I also regularly "artificially" talk to my housemates. I ask them about their day and ask them how they feel, even thought I don't "feel" like it. At first I thought they'd think me a fraud, but it just turns out that this is what it looks like when you love someone.

Anonymous said...

You can get through an office in 20 minutes!?