One paragraph continues to bounce around in my head (in the best possible way) from what I've written in Live Prayerfully:
I said in the Introduction that a prayerful life is meant for everyone. Here in the Conclusion, I want to add to that statement and say: a prayerful life is meant for everyone, and none of us becomes prayerful by ourselves. Perhaps the synergy that surpasses that of putting together practices of praying with other people’s words, praying without words, and praying with your own words is that of putting these practices together with others. It might be on a retreat, in a small group, or with your family, but the only way we are meant to live prayerfully is to live prayerfully together.
Part of the reason this paragraph continues to simmer in me is that, when I wrote it, I knew it was true–yet had experienced it only in the smallest degrees. I still think I've only experienced a bit of the goodness of living prayerfully together with others, but one of the really enjoyable byproducts of my experiment this year is that, for the sake of being able to keep the commitments I've made for this year, I've been able to get others to jump in at points with me and we get a taste of living our lives together in these ways.
It started at home. Even though my wife and I, for our entire marriage, have both been people committed to serving God and honoring God in our home, we had a very unimpressive track record when it came to living prayerfully together. Sure, we both prayed, but for the most part, her praying was hers and mine was mine. We wanted prayer to be more central in our relationship, but whatever sporadic attempts we sometimes made at praying together were usually less meaningful than we'd hoped for and it never stuck.
(In light of what I've written in the book, I can look at that and now realize that this was largely due to only ever trying to pray together in one of the three ways–praying with our own words–rather than ever incorporating the other two. I remember one time, years ago, when my wife expressed a desire that we pray together more often. I was hesitant, because during that period I had just begun learning about and practicing prayer without words and was finding it to be very life-giving. When I described that to her and explained that I was in a stretch of mostly praying without words... she let me know that sitting together in silence wasn't what she was hoping for. Now, thankfully, we've given ourselves a fuller range of tools to use when we try to pray together.)
In the first couple of weeks of this year's experiment, we had to make a road trip from Missouri back to Texas, and I knew that I would need her help if I was going to be able to stick to my commitments while driving 1,100 miles. During the trip, she read morning, midday, and evening prayers to me while we drove, and we read the night prayers together before going to bed. I don't recall a point when we ever talked about it or specifically decided to do so, but the habit of the night prayers has stuck for us. The unintended but really good result is that we have prayed together more during the three months since I began this experiment than we had in the eleven previous years of our marriage combined. It's mostly praying with others' words as they're printed in the night prayers of the book, and sometimes also including small amounts of praying with our own words and/or without words.
It is never anything spectacular–I don't think any of these times of prayer together have ever been particularly eventful or noteworthy for either of us–but it's still very good. We've gotten to the point where going to bed without praying together would feel very strange to us, as if we'd left our day incomplete.
If I hadn't taken on this somewhat silly experiment, we wouldn't have read those prayers together during that road trip, so we wouldn't have continued the practice of praying night prayers together (and occasionally the others as well), and the level at which we live prayerfully together would still be the same as it had been for the first decade+ of our marriage. But thanks be to God for a wife who's made this experiment possible and who, when we feel like it and when we don't, sits next to me as we end each day prayerfully together.
Something I've prayed this week:
Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan; Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Prayer for the First Sunday of Lent from The Book of Common Prayer)
[This is the 22nd post from A Year of Living Prayerfully]