Some lessons I have to learn over and over. Or maybe they are things that I just need to practice every day to learn at all. One of those lessons is how to find a life-giving rhythm in this chaotic world.
Chaos can come in the form of too many demands from too many directions. Work alone can pull you to pieces sometimes.
Add marriage, parenting, friends, church — after a while, each thing, even a favorite television show, can feel like it is pulling off a chunk of you as it pulls time away from every other demand.
Or chaos can come from the opposite direction: January finds me in a season of research and writing. I don’t have the usual enforced demands of classes, grading, and committee work. I’m free to work on my own — but that lack of structure can become its own kind of chaos.
Think about getting yourself a drink of water. You pick up the pitcher and start to pour it — but hey, there’s no glass! The water goes everywhere. All you have is a mess.
Chaos — because there is no structure.
Bring it to your lips and drink.
Prayer, and a life-giving rhythm
If you plan for it, prayer can be like the glass for the water, bringing order out of chaos.
When I was a pastor I was also finishing up my Ph.D. Thankfully, my contract included two weeks of study leave. I would spend them at a Benedictine monastery.
Early in the morning a monk would knock on my door. I would schlep myself to the chapel to pray Matins with the brothers, the first of the “hours” of the “Divine Office.”
- I’d go out and come back around dawn for “Lauds” and “Prime.”
- Then to my room for work, and back to the chapel for “Terce” at mid-morning.
- Back to work, then back to chapel for “Sext” just before lunch.
- Back to work, then back to chapel for “None” at mid-afternoon.
- Back to work, then back to chapel for “Vespers” at the end of the workday.
- Dinner, some quiet conversation, one last trip to chapel for “Compline,” and off to bed.
Before I tried it I feared I’d never get anything done with all that time in prayer.
Afterward I knew: this form of prayer, with all its structure, was like a glass to hold the water of life.
In two weeks at the monastery I did as much work as in three months back home.
Now with small children and a job it is often hard to get more than one of the hours into my day. But even that provides a useful pillar, a bit of structure around which the chaotic river of life must flow.
But as time goes on, especially in days devoted to research and writing, I can pray more than one of the hours.
Prayer can be the structure that turns life from chaos to order. Over and over it turns me from the mundane and worldly to the rich and eternal. Time and again I can live from a deep sense of being centered in God.
If I remind myself. If I keep coming back to the practice.
Now it’s your turn: Let me know in the comments how prayer impacts chaos in your life.
Lent is a great time to retool your prayer life. If you’d like to join me in an online prayer class click here to get on the waiting list.