My fourth ever speech was the best I ever held (hope I continue improving). I was supposed to argue for something and chose to urge my classmates to come to our daily prayer-session. It went really well on my side (we recorder our speeches and watched them ourselves afterwards) but the audience were obviously not convinced since none has turned up yet… On the other hand only five were present.
Anyway, here goes (the pictures are from the simultaneous PowerPoint presentation):
I am very glad to be able to speak to you today on a subject I hold dear.
Are we all agreed that we need to pray regularly?
Yes, we have heard Our Lord Jesus say, “Ask and it shall be given to you” and “Wherever two or more are assembled in My name, I am there”.
And by Luke, who we have learnt heard it from Peter, we are told that Jesus himself often prayed. He withdrew in silence, away from the crowds.
And it is this that I want us to do. At five past twelve, 12.05 for those of you with digital clocks, it is prayer-time in The Prayer Room. You know the one by the old sofa at the end of the stairs upstairs.
We wish that you too shall come.
I will repeat that.
I want you to come and pray with us every schoolday at 12.05!
So that you may get some idea of what we are doing:
We begin by calming ourselves.
Then we sing a Swedish psalm or Taizé-song.
After that we read two texts from The Book of Psalms together from a four-week schedule.
Then we read a weekday prayer followed by a short reading from The New Testament which we reflect on in a moments silence.
We end by reading an intercession and praying the Lord’s Prayer.
The whole thing goes on for about 15 minutes.
So, why do I want you to come?
Well, the short answer is that it is really nice, but we are few and we wish to share the nice with all of you.
There is, however, a longer answer but instead of laying it out I will answer the question in a roundabout manner. I will respond to some objections to Liturgy of the Hours that you may have that might have kept you away till now. So please, hear me out and think about it. Perhaps you will be willing to give it a chance.
Perhaps you think: “Oh no, Liturgy of the Hours is boring”.
That is not necessarily so.
You see, The Liturgy of the Hours, and especially sext, the noon prayer, is based in the Judaic prayer tradition and was adopted into the early church already in the first century. That form of prayer has been followed since then. For two thousand years. That’s kind of marvelous.
And something that is marvelous can’t be boring, can it?
”But we fancy free prayer!”
Yes, I can understand that.
When we follow The Liturgy of the Hours we have a ready-made prayer. That’s not always a bad thing. It keeps us from getting stuck in our own little circles. Usually we reinterpret God Holy Word in our prayers to fit in our lives, our feelings, our ideas of how it should be. That makes it personal, yes, but also excluding. What if the others don’t feel the same way? Then it may be preferable to pray quietly.
But when we follow The Liturgy of the Hours we can all pray aloud. Then I for one feel that we get more into the mood of praying than when we listen to others praying. We are active supplicants, not just passive spectators.
“But isn’t The Liturgy of the Hours very Catholic or even Jewish?”
Not when we follow it here in Johannelund. We pray in Our Lord Jesus name and sing hymns from our ordinary Swedish psalm-book and read from The New Testament.
So that makes it neither Jewish nor Catholic.
”Alright, but Jesus isn’t mentioned in The Book of Psalms!”
I have thought of that too.
I think we tend to concentrate so much on Jesus in church that we forget God. He’s overshadowed. At least a little.
So then it is good to read the Psalms. Well, it can’t hurt anyway. But I would like to add that many of the psalms can be directed to Jesus too: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…”
“What about all the violence in the psalms then?”
Yes, that’s a question that always arises. Did you know that many of the psalms are not violent at all? And that most of it can be read symbolically anyway? Don’t worry, we have our own collection of psalms and they are not very violent.
“Yes, that is all very nice, but we need to eat lunch too.”
Of course you shall eat. But the prayer meeting lasts only 15 minutes.
Look at it this way: We get brain-food in class and belly-food at lunch, but what about soul-food? Food for the soul we get by praying. So, after we have fed our brain, will we rush to feed our belly or take a few minutes to say a prayer to feed our soul too?
Aren’t we often told that peace of mind gives good digestion?
Prayer makes one peaceful, right?
So prayer gives good digestion!
“But how do we manage to pray after a long morning of classes?”
I have asked myself that question many times.
But at least at Kafernaum and Tiberias (our student lunchroom and kitchen) there is total chaos at the beginning of lunch break. So instead of spending a long and tiring quarter of an hour queuing to the microwave, isn’t it better to spend it praying?
It is mine and many others’ personal experience that praying to the Lord never is a waste. It doesn’t take your energy, it gives you more! And that extra energy gained is deep. It’s food for the soul.
”Oh, come on, on every weekday except Thursday we have already had a prayer meeting. Isn’t that enough?”
If you say so.
But don’t you drink more than once a day? Eat more than once a day? Then why not pray more than once a day? It’s all about constancy. Like vocabulary-studies. The more we do them, the better we get. Don’t you want to pray well?
“Alright then. But do you really want us to suffer through yet another prayer meeting while someone plays minister?”
Definitely not. When we pray The Liturgy of the Hours we are active all of us. We have a leader for orderliness, but anyone who wants may lead. And everyone assists. One may read the text, another lead the song, a third pray the intercession etc. So, we get good practice. And those of you who wish to be ministers may tell your “stiftsadjunkter” (the bishop’s assistants) that you have lead sexts at Johannelund. Nice huh?
A Russian Pilgrim wrote, “There is a time for everything, but there is always a time for prayer.”
So my request to you:
Let it take some time.
Let it be regular.
Let it be varied.
Try new ways. Come and pray sext with us.
After they applauded I said:
Now that you have applauded so nicely, may I ask that you come next lunch-period? Give it a try. See you there!