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Feb 13, 2015 | The Rt. Rev. Andy Doyle

Keeping it Simple

“Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake.” This prayer is from the service of Compline and one that I pray often—even in the daytime.


Another prayer I use frequently is from the Good Friday prayers: “for all who have not received the Gospel of Christ; for those who have never heard the word of salvation; for those who have lost their faith; for those hardened by sin or indifference; for the contemptuous and the scornful; for those who are enemies of the cross of Christ and persecutors of his disciples; for those who in the name of Christ have persecuted others; that God will open their ears to the truth, and lead them to faith and obedience.”


I have other favorites but these two capture most of my life, work and being. They live in a small journal of prayers, which is on my desk and which I keep with me over the weekend. It is filled with favorite prayers and the names of people who have asked me to pray for them. I bet you have your favorite prayer(s). What are they? When do you pray them?


I pray most every day privately or in congregations. Some days we have public prayer in the office. The two prayers above form a part of that routine. One of the blessings I have as your bishop is this life of prayer. Some people say they have to work at slowing down enough to pray—to make room in their lives for prayer. I find I have to pray to slow down and know that I am enough and that I have enough. I pray and discover that I am worthy of love and have been given so much—family, friends and worthwhile work.


I want prayer to enter my life more and more. I want to live a life overflowing with prayer. So, I pray throughout the day. I pray to myself and privately. I invite prayer with others. We pray before meetings. I pray before leading worship, while washing my hands at the holy table, before the Eucharist, at the breaking of the bread. Sometimes I pray for people I see and I have even prayed for someone who stopped me on the street and asked me for prayer.


Sometimes I don’t pray. At times I am pulled this way and that by every manner of thing. I can and do fall away from my prayerful practice, but my commitment to God is to return to my practice of prayer and start over.


I could tell you that it is important to have a daily ritual of prayer. Sure it is important. But the point is not the ritual but rather to become accustomed to God’s presence all the time. As you sit quietly, praying words from a book or names from a list is good. My friends at the Society of St. John the Evangelist (SSJE) have taught me that the gift regularity brings is the eventual gift of “spontaneity” and “frequent brief prayer” and “prompt repentance.”


The point of a life of prayer is also to find our life in God. This may be the ultimate point of a life of prayer. We bring ourselves and others to God. God is love. When we bring ourselves and others into the presence of a God who is love (Father Benson, the founder of SSJE, wrote), we learn to love what we take with us into that presence. So it is that in prayer we discover that we are worthy of love, worthy of kindness and worthy of gentleness. The God of love makes us worthy.


I imagine you reading this and considering your life of prayer. You are either happy with your prayer life or you desire more. You may not feel good about where your prayer life is right now. I have often heard, “My prayer life is in the dumpster.” I have even said that a time or two. So, I’ll offer some good advice. Don’t get too fancy. Try not to be a monk—unless you are one. You do not have to aspire to be a Desert Father or Mother. You need not pray without ceasing. Your prayers do not need to be beautiful or verbose. 


I once asked my father, “What am I to say to God?” My dad said, “Say, ‘Hello. I am Andy. I am here. Good morning.’” 


Anne Lamott is known to say the essentials are “help, thanks and wow.” So, if you want to pray, why not start this way? Put down this article. Say, “Hello, I am _____. I am here.” Then sit quietly and listen. Words will come to you—let them come. Silence will come to you—let it come. Dreams may come to you—let them come. No matter what comes or does not come, know that you are loved and worthy of God’s love.