Saturday, 5 April 2008

Daily Prayer

During Lent I made a concerted effort to get into the routine of daily prayer and study. I wanted this to be an extension of the courtesy 'please' and 'thank you' which I often found myself slipping into. I wanted a brief yet meaningful way of keeping God in my life through a simple act within a time of quiet in an otherwise hectic and busy day. This I found was, like most things, far more easily said than done. My local church offers daily Mass, which I do my best to attend regularly, but I confess that Morning Prayer, which precedes it, is too early and I have, after a year of attempts, failed entirely to attend thus far. A friend recommended (and indeed furnished me with) 'A Shorter Morning and Evening Prayer', otherwise known as the 'Shorter Roman Breviary'. This has proven to be a simple and meaningful beginning and end to each day.

The trouble is, however, that this short period of quiet in which I faithfully recite psalms, reading and prayers, often eludes me. I have to rush to get ready; I selfishly sleep for the extra ten minutes I ought to have put to better use. So more often than not I say the Office on my way to Mass. At a talk I once attended on saying the Rosary, the speaker commented that an ideal a place as any to say the Rosary is on a train journey. While in principle this appears a reasonable proposition, to what extent is it possible and indeed appropriate? Of course, I’m sure this comment was not intended to be taken to the extent that, on a packed tube at rush-hour, a sweaty body pressed up against sweatier ones, I should spontaneously launch into the Our Father... Or maybe it was (Incidentally, yesterday I came across a splendid solution to this: a credit card sized item with indents marking the decades and decorated with a picture of Our Lady). I have said Morning Prayer on the bus into town; I have said it as I walk along. I have said it silently in both cases, although I still found myself bowing my head at the Glory be and making the sign of the cross at appropriate points. The subject of my pondering is this: am I detracting from the Office of Morning Prayer by saying it on the move?

An attempt to find some kind of scriptural guide to this musing resulted in the following: ‘But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.’ (Mathew 6: 6). Now, the context of this passage suggests that its emphasis lies in the danger that the disciples and followers will become ‘like the hypocrites’ if they pray ostentatiously and out of a desire to prove the apparent depth of their piety to others. However, does it also point to a command that private prayer, which is separate from the more formal acts of worship engaged in by the Church, should be precisely that: private? Not carried out on a bus, or on a train or any other reasonable public place one might care to mention. It seems that I can solve this issue once and for all by Making it to Morning Prayer said corporately, or by ensuring that I have time to say it in private at home. Ultimately, however, it strikes me that it is far better to do it at all, than not to.


  1. The Welsh Jacobite5 April 2008 at 08:29

    Eric Mascall points out that we should pray as we can, not as we (think we) ought.

    All our worship is necessarily imperfect, so it's not something we should get too hung up about: you're quite right to say that it's better to do it in a less than ideal way than not to do it at all.

    There is a certain humility in accepting this, for perversely a concern not to be slack or complacent can turn into a sort of spiritual pride. "I shan't do it unless I can do it perfectly." That way madness lies.

    It's important too to remember that where you start is not where you will end up. It's not as if you are making a commitment only ever say Morning Prayer on your way to Mass. This is a starting point: once you open yourself up to the Holy Spirit by doing it at all he will lead you on beyond what you could do by your own efforts. Yes, there may well be false starts and setbacks, but gradually (NB - spiritual growth can be very slow at times) you will find yourself drawn into the mystery. (You may even find yourself choosing not to sleep those extra ten minutes!)

    Well done for starting.

    Pax et gaudium.

  2. As I've recently started trying to say Morning and Evening Prayer again (and seem to be sticking to it but we'll see...), I've noticed one practical bonus to saying it on the move.

    If I say MP at home before I leave for work, I'll rush through it in order to get out of the house because no matter how much I try to get up earlier, I always end up running late. However, if I do it on the tube, I know I've got the length of my journey to say it in and no distractions (because I'm a Londoner and in London, you pretend not to notice other people on public transport, whatever mad things they might be doing!)By that point, nothing I do will make me later for work than I already am so I can pray without thinking I have to rush through it.