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Ways into Prayer - A Rhythmn of Prayer

A Rhythm of Prayer

There are a number of references in the gospels to Jesus’ stepping aside from the increasing demands of his ministry, in order to seek a place of stillness and apartness, in order to pray, to spend uninterrupted time with God, the Father and Creator, the One to whom Jesus looked for strength, for guidance, unconditional love, and for rest. Sometimes early in the morning, sometimes after a busy day [see Mark 6:46-after the feeding of the 5,000] Sometimes it might well have been in company with the disciples. Jesus kept in close contact with God, and the need for a rhythm of prayer was something which he demonstrated and taught to all those he lived and worked with.

 

A rhythm of prayer within the daily rhythm of life was practised by the Jewish people in Jesus time [and previously, as taught by Moses]. The early Christians, forming the church after Jesus’ death and resurrection, were at times compelled to worship in underground catacombs – for fear of their lives. The Jewish pattern of praying 3 times a day developed into a rhythm of praying 7 times [or more] a day, as the early church continued prayer at 3 hourly intervals. In Acts, the apostles are recorded as offering extemporaneous prayer as needed – Paul and Silas when in chains in prison, were praising and praying to God at midnight [Acts16:25] in addition to following the rhythm of prayer 3 time a day.

 

In the monastic tradition, the rhythm of prayer became a pattern of 7 services through the day and night [24 hours].

6am First Hour  Matins [or Lauds]

9am Third Hour [Trece]

Noon Prayer sixth Hour

3pm Ninth Hour [None]

6pm Vespers [or Evensong]

9pm Compline

Midnight Prayer

 

The different Orders varied the content of the services, but the essence was of ‘praying continually’ as Paul encouraged the Thessalonians [1 Thess:5-17]. The rhythm continues in religious Orders and houses today, although in some places the midnight and 6am services may not be observed. Retreat Houses also generally offer a Rhythm of Prayer for Retreatants – often Morning and Evening Prayer at regular times. It will be noticed that within our Sunday services in church that the rhythm continues with Morning and Evening Prayer [and occasionally Compline].

 

As Jesus taught, prayer is our means of communication with and growing closer to God. So maybe, if you don’t already have a rhythm of prayer, now might be the time to begin…

Praying 7 times a day is a big ask, but we are not all called to a monastic life, of course, and the day to day patterns of most of our lives won’t allow such a rhythm to work. However, there are many books available which help and encourage to establish a rhythm of Prayer-beginning with Morning and Night Prayer, and as one practises, maybe adding Noonday Prayer.

 

A Holy Island Prayer Book by Ray Simpson [guardian of the Aidan and Hilda Community on Lindisfarne]

The Rhythm of Life – Celtic Daily Prayer by David Adam

Or going online – http://Prayerfoundation.org/daily/office

The list can go on…

 

Then there is the simple rhythm of lighting  a candle, sitting in a regular place, holding a stone or one’s bible, at the beginning of the day, and just allowing space to listen to God in the stillness and to offer to him, informally, this day as it begins. Throughout the day, many of us find ourselves connecting with God in prayer, just as the early church did, in times of thankfulness or need. Extemporary praying! The Rhythm of Prayer is here and with us!

‘Pray without ceasing.’!

 

Jane Hoskins


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