Saturday, July 14, 2012

An Octave of Prayer: Praying The Hours

On Sunday, July 15 we will be introducing Praying the Hours. We will be developing up both an online and face to face prayer community. Here is the handout we will be using for the lesson and conversation during our weekly missional worship gathering, followed by communion followed by common meal, and tomorrow followed by the great film Into Great Silence, about the contemplative life of monks in a monastery in the French Alps, as the film is itself a portal into contemplation and prayer. Much of this comes from the book Praying the Hours in Ordinary Life by Lauralee Farrer and Clayton J. Schmit. There is an orientation to the hour; the prayer refrain; contemplation on the focused hours; an example from the poet Rainer Marie Rilke's Book of Hours, and liturgies. For our ongoing praying the hours we will also be drawing from various Book of Hours and from original and other sources.

An Octave of Prayer

Prime…6 to 9 am…

The day is lit. Choose your course….

My heart pounds in Your rhythm. Syncopate my life, O God….

The sun is up, stopping and praying shapes the day instead of the day shaping us. Each day is Resurrection Day; there can be an end to repetition. Bring forth the Song in you. Be careful to spend the energy of this hour on dissipated goals. Brief prayers, perhaps during the commute to work, praying for those you know you will meet, and for those you don’t yet know whom you will meet during the day.

No idea is too small for me. I love it no matter what. I paint it on a background of gold. Make it large and hold it high. Even though I don’t know yet, whose soul it will entice. Rilke book of hours.

O God, the sun has risen. With it, lift up our hearts and prepare us for all that the day will bring. Be with us in our humble and deliberate beginning of the day, in work as in prayer. O Come, let us sing to the Lord, let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Come into God’s presence with thanksgiving. Awake my soul. My heart pounds in Your rhythm.

Terce…9 am to Noon…

The light climbs. The worker pauses.

I worship You, with primal joy, Living God.

We have found the rhythm and focus of the day, and our last intuition is to stop. And yet we need to, because as Benedict of Nursia reminds us, work is not our purpose. As Rabbi Abraham Herschel says, It is a blessing to be; just to live is Holy. This is the hour of the Pentecost. We make room for the Spirit so that our actions flow from it and not from our own desires. We pause to remember the Joy of Life. The work that remains to be done when we return to work is the same, but we are different.

Like waters swell and ebb into the open sea, I want to proclaim Your name, in mounting waves, like no one has done before. (Rilke)

Come Spirit, into our hearts. Into our thoughts. Into our work. Into this day. May God be gracious to us and bless us and shine upon us. With Primal Joy, Living God, I worship You.

 Sext…Noon to 3 pm…

The sun is overhead. The traveler reaches a crossroad.

Give me courage for this hour.

The hour when the fruit of the forbidden tree is eaten. The hour Jesus hangs upon the cross. The dull center of ordinary time. The mid-life crisis of our day. Tempted to lethargy and apathy and despair. Hard to hold on. We can’t look at the sun directly. We can’t look directly at this hour. Half of life is spent and night is coming. Still God prepares the way, and opens the door. God works to unseal the heavy doors that we have built around our hearts. News from God comes rushing through dark alleys into your heart (rilke).

O Merciful One, may we know You more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day.

God heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds, lifts up the downtrodden. You shall go out in joy and be led back in peace. The mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Give me courage for this hour.

None…3 to 6 pm…

Shadows grow. No one lives forever.

 When daylight wanes, and shadows lengthen, to forgive is to make whole.

The time of melancholy, of loss, when we crave the transcendent and the permanent. We feel in suspense, incomplete. When Jesus cried out on the cross, O God why have you forsaken me? In this hour we learn to trust. To turn our attention toward the land of hope. To move from loss to legacy, to what we will leave behind. We will not be asked if we sinned, but if we loved.

I am like a tree that grows next to a grave holding high in its mighty branches the dream a lost boy once dreamt though he lies in my roots’ embrace forever gone in sadness and lament. Rilke

Come Spirit, be with us in the waning of the day. As shadows lengthen, strengthen our hold on Life itself.

God will keep your life, God will keep your going out and your coming in, from this time forth and forevermore. To forgive is to make whole.

 Vespers…6 to 9 pm…

Sundown. We gather together.

The sun recedes, we worship You. We eat, we pray, we drink, we sing.

The hour when we gather for food and friendship and family at the dying of the daylight. Embracing life as we embrace one another. We set aside petty grievances and forgive, and feed each other with new energy. We light candles for the light of hope that the sun will rise again.

I have hymns that I have not sung. I am out of your reach, but my heart bows to you. You think of me as great; but I am near. Rilke

It is you who lights my lamp, my God lights up my darkness. We eat, we pray, we drink, we sing.

Now the day is over. Night is drawing night. Shadows of the evening. Steal across the sky.

Compline…9 pm to Midnight….

The moon has risen. We enter the night rest.

 You lay me down in the arms of night. You guard and teach me as I dream.

The hour for sleep. Sleep is made common by its familiarity, yet what could be more strange, more intimidating? We enter the unknown world of dreams. Nearly half our lives are in a wonderland of absurdity. Into that dark we go alone. And we emerge often with little memory of where we have been or for how long. We have been made however for this Sabbath daily. So why not enter it with intention? Prayer guides us into the peace of the night. Into the Great Silence we keep until morning. We learn from compline how to enter into death not with fear but with wonder.

I revolve around God, the tower of old, and I spin amidst thousands of years, Yet I remain unclear of my role-am I a Falcon, a storm, or a beautiful Song? Rilke

The Lord be with you. And also with you. Lift up your hearts. We lift them up to God. Let us give thanks to God. Thanks be to God. Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-laden. And I will give you rest. You guard and teach me as I dream.

 Vigils…Midnight to 3 am…

The moon is overhead. We wait.

Here I am, here I am, Your servant, I AM.

The longest hour. The bridge between sleep and sunrise. Vigils means wakefulness. Keeping vigil is not just not being able to sleep, but it is purposeful wakeness at a time when otherwise we would be asleep. As in when watching over someone who is ill or who has died. When we know the steadfast love of God never ceases, so neither do our prayers. This too is an hour for longest sadness. The soundtrack for this hour is Silence. Mystery. Listening.

I raised my tired hands to You, in nameless pleading, that I would find my eyes again, with which I once beheld You. Rilke.

From the end of the earth I call to you. When my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you are my refuge. Grant us a quiet night and peace at the last.

The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you by night; but God will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Neither death nor life nor angels nor rulers nor things present nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor anything else in all Creation will be able to separate us from the love of God. Here I am, here I am, your servant, I Am.

Watch now, O God, with those who watch or weep tonight, and guard over those who sleep. Tend to the sick, rest your weary ones, bless your dying ones, soothe your suffering ones, be merciful for your afflicted ones, shield your joyous ones, liberate your oppressed ones, All for Love’s sake.

Lauds…3 to 6 am…

The sun returns. The sleeper awakes.

 Spirit, clothe me in the light.

This is the time from the sky’s first lightening to the sun’s release into the sky from the horizon. Joy cometh from mourning in the morning. This is the time of the new, of release and of relief, of celebration. Still for many in grief and despair the dawn brings dread. It is a time when there is the conflict between our dreams and our dawning reality. Prayer helps lead us where we do not want to go, from the is, to the is not, to the still to be. This is the time for the smallest of things to lead us into the biggest of things. A holocaust survivor tells of concentration camp misery being lightened by the song of a morning bird. A parent in a hospital is soothed by the smile of a sick child. The softest word turns rage away. Tender mercies of the Intimate and the Ultimate come to us in this hour.

Nearby is the land they call life. You will know it by its sincerity. Give me your hand. Rilke

Out of the depths I cry to you, I wait for You more than those who watch for the morning,

Spirit, clothe me in the light.

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