Without fail it happens. There are so many tasks to attend to over the course of the day, and the temptation is to skip taking time to pray. Just this Wednesday, I was sitting at my desk and I thought about missing Morning Prayer at 9:00 am. On Wednesdays Morning Prayer is officiated by one of our lay officiants, and it would have been easy to skip. But it is also Lent, and it is a time to renew our prayer practices. I went to Morning Prayer, and I was very glad I did so in the end. It is a gift to sit in the church and listen to scripture as it unfolds in the Daily Office.
We are fortunate at St. Mark's to have such a robust rota of worship. Every day Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer are read, and the mass is celebrated at noon time. This Wednesday was our first Stations of the Cross of the season, and John Condrey gave a wonderful meditation during the Lenten supper beforehand. This past Sunday, even though it was raining heavily, we had a good attendance at Evensong. We have so many different ways for people to enhance their spirituality and prayer life, and this happens every day of the week.
With the horrible news that came out of Parkland, Florida, I have been especially grateful for the prayer of the church this week. I also realize that many of the comments about "thoughts and prayers" are disingenuous. It is a convenient phrase people say when they do not know what to do. Real prayer takes an investment of time that most of human life rarely makes possible. Just as becoming a better practitioner of yoga or tai chi takes time and dedication, the same is true of prayer in the Christian tradition.
When we immerse ourselves in the prayer of the church, and this must include a deeper reflection of Scripture if the prayer is to be authentic, we discover that prayers and thoughts can only lead to action. Authentic Christian prayer unites meditation and spirituality with action, sacrifice, and discipleship. When you pray for the disenfranchised, God then leads you to help the needy. When you pray for the homeless, you pray for them by feeding them. When you pray for the victims of abuse, you pray by helping the victims. When you pray for the victims of gun violence, you pray by working for policy changes. I have said before that the Daily Office has saved my life. This is because the Daily Office has taught me to be a better human. Hearing the scriptures, and having the space to pray with them, allows the Spirit to form us so that we can naturally do the justice work of God. Do not be fooled by the catch-phrase "thoughts and prayers." Authentic prayer results in action. If we are to be true to Jesus, prayer cannot be separated from action.
This past Sunday afternoon and evening it was pouring rain. Nevertheless, our Sunday Supper Ministry volunteers served a hot supper to the homeless of our neighborhood as they do every Sunday. When our crew showed up at the park, the homeless who were waiting were happy to see our St. Mark's folks. They wondered if the rain would prohibit the delivery of meals. Without a life of prayer, our folks would have stayed at home. But when you are rooted in the prayer of the church, and when you take the time to pray the scriptures, you learn how to show up in the Name of Jesus Christ. God's work must be done regardless of the circumstances. On Sunday that meant serving hot meals in the cold rain to some of the most vulnerable in our community. This is how prayer works.
In this Sunday's Gospel we hear Jesus' call us to take up our cross and follow him. When we take the time to pray regularly, we also discover that it is natural to take up the cross and follow Jesus. Our response will not be only "thoughts and prayers." If authentic prayer is actually happening, then what we will see will be "prayers and actions."
Wishing you a holy Lent,
Father Paul Lillie+