“Now I lay me down to sleep…” This was the first prayer that I learned. Followed shortly thereafter with, “Our Father who art in heaven…”. And then, almost through osmosis, a whole host of prayers from the Book of Common Prayer. As life went on, experiences at camp, time with monastics, contemplatives and spiritual directors all formed and shaped me and moved me from saying prayers by rote to a life of prayer.
One of the books I was asked to read in seminary was, Praying Shapes Believing by Leonel Mitchell. This book provides a theological reflection on the prayers that constitute our Book of Common Prayer. At its foundation, the text makes the case that what we pray makes a clear statement about what we believe. This is consistent with the long held belief by many Anglican/Episcopal theologians who assert that if you want to understand our theology, read (or more specifically, pray) our prayers.
I completely agree with this premise. What we pray is not only a statement of our beliefs, but it also shapes what we believe. This is why I am so deeply appreciative of being rooted in the Book of Common Prayer. These prayers and subsequent offerings have and continue to form and shape me. As importantly, what I have learned and experienced from meditation and centering prayer has challenged and nurtured my soul.
With all this said, I confess I was a bit taken a back when some in our Church suggested that they would not be praying for the President-elect because of his behavior or his positions on a number of issues. This is completely inconsistent with my understanding of Scripture, and as such, my theology:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”
It is clear that we are called to live out our faith through prayer, even for those we are challenged by. In fact, every spiritual director I have had has pushed me to do exactly that when I have found myself in conflict with someone else. In the end, for me, one of the greatest ways Christ has been made known to me and hopefully through me has been in prayer. Prayer has been a catalyst for both Epiphany and transformation.
My hope particularly for this Epiphany season and during this time of Presidential transition is that we will make Christ known through our times of both individual and corporate prayers.
Our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry also spoke to this issue, you can hear what he has to say by clicking here.