Walking in the Footsteps of Christ – Day 20
Thursday after 3rd Sunday of Lent
A Lenten Journey with the Rule of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis
These Reflections which take the Rule of the Third Order as their springboard, were originally published in Lent 2012 are being republished during Easter 2020 as a way of deepening our faith during the Covid19 pandemic which is affecting the whole world
From the Principles:
The First Way of Service – Prayer (continued)
We recognise the power of intercessory prayer for furthering the purposes of God’s kingdom, and therefore seek a deepening communion with God in personal devotion, and constantly intercede for the needs of his church and his world. Those who have much time at their disposal give prayer a large part in their daily lives. Those with less time must not fail to see the importance of prayer and to guard the time they have allotted to it from interruption.
From St Francis:
Prayer, A Haven of Safety
Francis’s safe haven was prayer, not prayer of a few minutes, or empty, presumptuous prayer, but prolonged, full of devotion and the serenity of humility. If he began late, it would be dawn before he finished. Whether walking, sitting, eating, or drinking, he was rapt in prayer. At night he would retire alone to pray in abandoned, neglected churches. That was how, by God’s grace, he overcame many fears and anxieties. (Celano. First Life, 71)
I freely acknowledge that I have a very busy life (some would say far too busy!) and need to listen carefully to these words about ‘guarding’ the time set aside for prayer.
But I am not the only person who is busy. So too is the nursing mother with young children having to juggle chores and babies, the factory worker surrounded by the cacophony of industry all day long, the office worker swept up in the melée of the commute into a busy city and the chatter of the call centre. Each of us needs to guard our prayer time.
Of course there are others whose lives have a different pace. The retired person who spends far too much time in their own company, the person with a debilitating illness confined to bed and with limited mobility, the teenager whose most frequent Facebook status is ‘so booorrrreeed!’
Whether we have ‘much time at our disposal’ or a smaller amount of time we must learn the habit of guarding our prayer time.
In one sense my busy-ness makes it easier for me to heed the call to pray – to answer that call is a different challenge though! I long for chunks of time and days of prayer and, if I have not let myself get over tired, will hungrily grab at any opportunity for a few moments of quiet whenever some daylight appears in my calendar. I have to put a monthly day of prayer into my diary because I know there will be days when my personal prayer life (which is not the same as my public leading of worship) will be little more than a ‘lick and a promise’. I am fortunate because I know I am hungry.
Sometimes I think it is those with much time to hand who can find guarding prayer time more difficult. How do we, if we have the whole day ahead of us, find the desire and hunger for prayer? In conversations with fellow pilgrims I have seen how easy it is to fall into the trap outlined in Proverbs….
9How long will you lie there doing nothing at all? When are you going to get up and stop sleeping? 10Sleep a little. Doze a little. Fold your hands and twiddle your thumbs. 11Suddenly, everything is gone, as though it had been taken by an armed robber. (Proverbs 6v9-11 – repeated again in Proverbs chapter 24!)
But it is not simply about time on the clock and space in the diary. Just because I have much time to do something important it does not mean that I will do it. Romans 7v14-19 bears frequent reading! It is just as easy to procrastinate in prayer as it is in the other tasks of life. All of us will need an occasional spiritual ‘spring clean’ to make sure that everything, especially prayer which should be the heartbeat of our lives, is in its proper place.
What I need to learn is that I do not become holy if I have a large amount of time for deep contemplation, nor am I counted as unrighteous if I have only managed to snatch a few moments of prayer. Instead I am most sure footed on the road home when I have a regular time of prayer no matter how short or long. Once again we need to remember ‘Seven days without prayer makes one weak!’ A statement which holds true regardless of how much time we have to hand
You are holy, Lord, the only God,
and your deeds are wonderful.
You are love, you are wisdom.
You are humility, you are endurance.
You are rest, you are peace.
You are joy and gladness.
You are all our riches, and you suffice for us.
You are beauty, you are our gentleness.
You are our protector,
You are our guardian and defender.
You are courage,
You are our haven and hope.
You are our faith, our great consolation.
You are our eternal life, great and wonderful Lord,
God almighty, merciful Saviour.
Francis of Assisi – The Divine Praises (abridged)
Use a kitchen timer to ‘guard’ your time of prayer.
Other items which may help you do this are:
The alarm on a mobile phone
A small birthday cake candle – stay at your prayer until it burns out completely
An hour glass – these are not all an hour long and come in varieties of timings
When, in the year ahead, will you set aside a large amount of time for prayer?
99 Words to Breathe:
You do not need to leave your room.
Remain seated at your table and listen.
Do not even listen,
Do not even wait,
Simply be quite still and solitary.
The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked.
It has no choice.
It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
Franz Kafka chosen by Harry Underhill – mediator, hydrologist, Quaker
‘The Principles’ are from the Rule of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis – this version amended for corporate reading by Andrew Dotchin
‘The Words of Francis’ are from ‘Through the Year with Francis of Assisi’ selected and translated by Murray Bodo – copyright © Collins Fount 1988
Prayers are from ‘The Book of a Thousand Prayers’ compiled by Angela Ashwin – copyright © Zondervan 1996
‘You have breath for no more than 99 Words. What would they be?’ were collected by Liz Gray – copyright © DLT 2011
These Reflections, ‘Walking in the Footsteps of Christ’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged