To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.Psalm 25:1
I'm two days into this new project. I have mixed senses of excitement about it with a bit of apprehension about my ability to follow through on it. I have a long, outstanding track record of thinking up great projects. The record gets a bit less stellar on which of those I've ever begun. The record is cringeworthy on the projects that have been completed. But I'm hoping that the public commitment here on the blog helps me to follow through on things this time the same way it did with setting a deadline for finishing the book. The positive side of my two-days-in feelings about this idea are also legitimate. I feel certain that I will be a more prayerful person a year from now than I am today, and that is bound to have good effects of some sort.
But back to the apprehension for a moment. Part of that comes from my realization that, yes, it seems like a good idea to do this, to follow my own advice to the farthest reasonable limit by committing myself to praying four times per day in the three ways of prayer from Live Prayerfully. But four times per day every day for a year is, well, a lot. Even this morning, on day two, I woke up realizing that it was time to pray, after having prayed just before bed last night, and the thought that entered my mind was, "Pray again? Didn't I just do that?" But I suspect that any very structured discipline feels that way when we're either getting into it or getting back into it, and the sense of constancy about it is certainly part of the point.
(And just to be clear so that hopefully you'll still read it once it's available, nowhere in Live Prayerfully do I try to get people to do things to the extent I'm doing them. I suggest three ways of prayer- praying with other people's words, praying without words, and praying with your own words- and the guides to prayer in part two of the book include four opportunities for each day of a week to do so. Hence the structure of this experiment. But in my own practice of these things in the past, I've never taken advantage of every opportunity. It was a daily habit, but not a four-times-per-day habit. So, trying to follow through on my own advice to this extreme is what I hope will provide the content of these posts- hopefully some of them will be insightful, and I'm sure that others will be just plain humiliating.)
After previously describing this project as being intentionally legalist, Robert Pelfrey commented that I'm not being legalist, just Methodist. It was a great point, and makes me feel more comfortable going about this the way I am. John Wesley and his early Methodists will always be among my all-time heroes, and they got their name more or less as an accusation of being intentional legalists, in the sense of giving themselves a method for their spiritual lives and committing to stick by it. As I mentioned in my response to Robert, if the dictionary defines legalism as "excessive adherence to a formula", which very much describes what I'm doing this year, as a committed Methodist I am in good company with my ancestors of this branch of Christianity. Giving ourselves a method of opening up to God and then following it in a community of others is what Methodism at its best is about.
But if you're a Methodist, have ever been a Methodist, or have ever even known a Methodist, you'll likely notice the dissimilarity between the kind of method I'm undertaking throughout this year and the method that you have seen, practiced, or been taught. Or, better, the dissimilarity between the method I'm choosing and the lack of a method in what you've likely seen in Methodism. It's more than safe to say we've lightened up a bit since our founding.
If I am swinging the pendulum too far in the other direction, that's okay, but if it ends up being a good thing, hopefully I can pull some others of you along with me.
[This is the 2nd post from A Year of Living Prayerfully.]