Understanding ourselves to be “new monastics,” we began the Lotus House with the intention of praying together every day. Our covenant said: “Following the ancient tradition of the Church, we will come together as a community twice daily at an appointed time for prayer and thanksgiving.” Ancient monks prayed more frequently of course – seven times a day – but like the Benedictines we wanted prayer to be the organizing principle of our schedule.

It took several years for our aspiration to become a reality. Prayer was infrequent at first. We kept at it, however, and after three or four years (it takes a while!) it became a regular habit. Now the prayer bell rings every day at 7am and 9pm, and we gather around the kitchen table or in the living room and pray together. Our prayers are based on the Family Devotions in the Book of Common Prayer, an ancient model with roots in the Benedictine Divine Office (Thomas Cramner, the prayer book’s original editor, believed that every Christian household ought to function like a little monastery). Though they vary from season to season, out devotions always include a psalm, a scripture reading, prayers of praise and intercession, the Lord’s Prayer, and a hymn or canticle.

Because our daily prayers are rooted in the Christian year, our daily prayers also situate us within a larger annual rhythm which moves through the story of Jesus from Advent to Easter. As the Christians seasons change, our prayers reflect different themes: hope and expectation in Advent, joy in Christmas and Epiphany, penance in Lent, and celebration in Easter. In this way, communal prayer gives structure not only to our daily rhythms, but to our whole year.

Daily communal prayer has many practical benefits. It gets us together in the same room twice a day. It provides an opportunity to check in with each other and to be accountable. It gives structure to other communal rhythms such as meals and service times. Beyond these practical concerns, however, prayer lies at the heart of our mission of discipleship formation. Becoming a disciple is not a matter of performing certain duties, or even feeling a certain way toward other people. Discipleship is a process of growth in which we move from our own culture into the alternative culture of the kingdom of God. Prayer is the language of God’s kingdom, a language of dependence, submission, and thanksgiving, and like any foreign language, it can be learned only through practice and repetition. By daily forming our mouths around the speech of the ancient psalms, the words of scripture, and the prayers and hymns of generations past, we learn to inhabit together the world where God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven – the world for which God has created us all.

Advertisements