Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Loving Daytime Prayer

We (well, I for certain) tend to take the daytime hours (terce, sext, none) for granted. They aren't very long and therefore don't "feel" as important as the principle hours of Lauds and Vespers. It's easier to get excited about the Office of Readings, with it's nice daily chunk of scripture and the daily novelty of yet another beautiful sermon from the church fathers or the saints.

But have you ever noticed how desperately relevant daytime prayer is to your daily life? About as relevant as the life preserver tossed to drowning man!  Whichever daytime hour we customarily pray, it usually comes as a much needed break from our daily work. And that is especially true if your work, either temporarily or chronically, is not going very well. Daytime prayer pulls us out of the 9 to 5 rat race and places us for a few moments under a shady tree, or maybe on a mountain top, where we both rest and remember to look at our lives from the perspective of eternity. It reminds us that God is in control at precisely the time of day when we likely have been deluding ourselves into thinking that we are in control.

At the same time, the majority of the daytime psalter (Psalm 119 and psalms with similar themes) doesn't take us too far away from mundane concerns. Instead, it heartens us to take courage and get back to our daily grind with hope, knowing that we work out our salvation precisely through putting one foot in front of the other insofar as those footsteps are God's will for our lives. More than that, it encourages us to find joy in just doing the right thing, day after day, without concern for whether anyone notices or rewards us for it.

Today (Wednesday, week I) contains some of my favorite verses on this theme. They startle me every time I read them:
I rejoice to do your will
as though all riches were mine. 
Imagine that--feeling like you've won the lottery because, on reflection, it seems that so far today, you've done what God wanted you to do, even if that just means doing dishes and laundry, or filling out paperwork, or enduring a really boring meeting at work with a pleasant expression on your face.

Today also includes Psalm 17. Here, the psalmist begs God to protect him from people who want to ruin him, probably kill him. He mentions that these people have comfortable lives, lots of money, and lots of children to whom they can leave their riches. Is he saying that this is unfair? No, because he follows up that description with this:
As for me, in my justice I shall see our face and be filled, 
when I awake, with the sight of your glory. 
This sounds to me like he thinks his enemies will succeed in killing him, that God will not answer the prayer for protection in this world, but that's okay, Lord, because the sight of your face in heaven will make all my pain seem like nothing. Again, this is just the sort of thing we need to hear when the boss is making life miserable for us.
One more thing. The reading for midday continues the theme: Who indeed is victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Daytime prayer is certainly the worker's prayer. Don't neglect it, especially when your job is driving you crazy.