Dear Inspiration Seekers,
Paul reiterates the themes of Mystery and Unity in a Prayer for the Ephesians: love that suprpasses knowledge (3:19)… one Lord, one faith, one baptism (4:5). As I have addressed these themes in the last two posts of this series, I shall turn to Prayer at the theme.
In the Baptist tradition in which I was reared, Prayer had both formal and informal aspects. Prayer had developed traditions in placement and style: Prayers before meals; Prayers at the beginning and ending of the day; Prayers of invocation, offering, and benediction of worship services; Prayers giving thanks; Prayers seaking guidance; Prayers acknowledging the presence of guests. I find this ironic, for these same traditions advocated that Prayer should be spontaneous and not scripted.
In contrast, when visiting with my wife’s family and home church, the Prayers are more formal and scripted. The High Episcopal tradition has a whole Book of Common Prayer. I learned quickly, as I prefered to take the role of finding the page from which we would read the Prayers, that you looked that the edge of the books to find the pages that had dirt ground into them. That is where the familiar parishioners thumbed to the usual Prayers for the service and Eucharist. Then every once in a while they would trip me up with a child baptism, where the pages were not as often thumbed to. Many of those in church did not need to Book of Common Prayer to recite the phrases. These prayers have been developing since the 3rd century. The Anglican church may have cast off the authority of the Pope, but they appear to have pretty much carried on with the traditions of the worship service and Prayers from centuries before. Many end with those words on Unity from Ephesians 4:5.
Thus, Prayer serves as a unifying ritual, organizing worship and passing on traditions. In Christianity, whether a Catholic reciting the Rosary, an Episcopal reading from from a daily devotional Prayer book, or a Baptist composing a private Prayer, Prayer is consider an individaul act also. These may be formalize affirmations, praises, and personal encouragements. These may be requests for guidance during decisions and conflicts. I am reminded of when I learned yoga technques 30 years ago. My instructor talked about the yoga class as a learning experience, but that yoga was not limited to the room. Yoga was a lifestyle, carried out with each purposeful movement, being aware of what the body is and could be doing.
Maybe Prayer has a similar characteristic. The formal Prayers of the service act as the training sessions and the spontaneous, personal Prayers of the daily act out of these lessions. Maybe that Book of Common Prayer is not what we leave in the book holder on the back of the pew, but what we take with us as we shake the minister’s hand and head back into the world… one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (4:6). Order, Mystery, Unity, Prayer.
Until next time, Inspiration Seekers