We are changing seasons here in Chicago — it suddenly ran up to 87 degrees the other day. High schools are winding down, colleges have sent the residents home, gardens are beginning to bloom, and we’ve got new birds flitting around our neighborhood. I would like also to suggest that this a time of prayer change — a time when the change of seasons lends us a little more easily to adjusting our habits to spend more time in prayer. We might be in need of a new habit. Let me suggest one.
Many need no help, but many of us like the structure of sacred rhythms, a structure as old as the Shema (“Hear O Israel, the Lord our God: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” — Deut 6:4-5). Many find it hard to come up with something to pray about and so the Bible established a rhythm to keep in mind what is most important: to love God. Jesus attached to this the text from Lev 19:18 to form the Great Commandment, though I like to call it the Jesus Creed. The early Christians prayed two to three times a day, minimally, and paused in their day to “say their prayers.” It kept them focused on God, formed an oasis in the middle of the day’s heat, and made the schedule holy.
If you are looking for a brief introduction to the great prayer traditions of the Church for praying the divine hours or the sacred rhythms, you might need a starter book, like Praying with the Church. I’ll tell you what I’d like to see: I’d like to see one downtown church in every community make it a matter of principle to open its doors for the public recitation of The Divine Hours edited by Phyllis Tickle — or some historic prayer book.
It’s time for a new habit for some of us.