For most of the past month I have fallen away from what was my routine prayer practice. Since September, when I began my 70 minute train ride to Center City, I have been praying a modified form of The Suffrages from Evangelical Lutheran Worship, and reading the three assigned texts from the daily lectionary. It was a 10-15 minute routine, a good way to begin my train ride.
To do this, each week I was printing out a self-made crib sheet that listed the lectionary readings, the Prayer of the Day for Sunday and any festivals that may fall during the week, and a listing of any commemorations that are celebrated during the week. I would fold this nifty little sheet once, and stick it inside the front cover of my pocket-sized Bible. It was a good routine.
But then one week last month, for whatever reason, I didn’t create and print out the sheet. For one or two days I skipped the readings, but continued to say my prayers (also printed out and tucked into the front of my Bible). But even that practice faded away. And now I have gone a few weeks without either the prayer or the readings, choosing to go right to sleep, read a book, listen to NPR, or do some work on my computer.
I wish I could say that there was some qualitative decline in my quality of life, that I’ve been worse off for not keeping this prayer routine. Since I am no longer praying the Prayer of the Day, no longer reading Bible passages connected to the church year, and no longer thumbing through my Bible from the Old Testament, to the Psalms to the New Testament, I feel more distant from the Bible and church year itself – this is true. But, the absence of this prayer practice has not inauggerated a new crisis of faith or increased my anxiety level to new heights.
And so, this little experience has left me wondering about the nature and purpose of prayer, the impact prayer has (or doesn’t) on the one who prays, and the nature of spiritual disciplines in general. Perhaps my biggest loss in this past month has been a creeping rustiness in my Biblical knowledge and a distancing from the church year, but has my relationship with God been harmed? Has my spirituality been impaired? What do these things mean?