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.