Maybe you’ve heard the adage, “If you win the morning, you win the day.” If this is true, I’m in trouble! Jesus seemed to be on board with this idea. He was often found sneaking away to a quiet place early in the morning to pray (Mark 1:35).
Morning prayer has been an important part of my Rule of Life for quite a few years. Sometimes this means the Morning Prayer you find in The Book of Common Prayer, and sometimes it means a quick “Our Father…” and a few “help me Jesus’s” before I roll out of bed to make breakfast for the kids. But I find myself more and more convinced by Jesus’ example of sneaking away, even if it’s under the sheets or in the shower, for a time to connect with the Father, first thing. This is really the heart of morning prayer anyway, making our connection with God our first priority, believing that it is what gives life and vitality to all that we do and all that we are.
Morning Prayer has been one of the anchors of Anglican spirituality from the beginning. This practice—rooted in the example of Jesus and passed down to us via Saint Benedict of Nursia in The Rule he wrote for himself and his fellow monks—has been foundational for a long time.
Because I am not a morning person, I’ve always tried to get around this wisdom, to shift my daily prayer to a time that better fit “how God created me,” which has looked eerily like a vampire most of my life. The gift of children has changed my propensity to late nights a little, but it’s still not easy to wake up in the early hours to spend time in prayer.
As I’ve grown a little older and hopefully a little wiser, the wisdom of morning prayer, as exemplified by Jesus has become more important than the convenience of my preferred time of prayer, which, let’s be honest, often gets lost all together as my day fills up and busy wins over best in the ring of my daily practices. This is precisely why Morning Prayer is a part of my Rule of Life. If it wasn’t built into my Rule it wouldn’t be a practice of priority as I believe it should be.
Now for some more confession, even though Morning Prayer is a part of my Rule of Life I often find myself pushing it back and just firing in prayers wherever I can, praying before I got to bed instead of when I wake up. That’s the reality. This is why, during Lent, I’ve taken on the disciple of not looking at my phone or screens before I pray. Often I do the Morning Prayer found in the section entitled, Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families in The Book of Common Prayer (p. 137 if you have a ’79 BCP). It takes 5-10 minutes and is a great start to the day. I have found that in this busy world of church planting that I find myself in, this discipline is helping me to be more centered and to have a better focus and rhythm of life throughout my day.
With some Lenten disciplines you look forward their end, but with others, you hope that a habit will be formed and stay with you long after the 40 days are over. All of our Lenten disciplines are meant to shape us into the image of Jesus. The disciplines and activities included in our Rule of Life are suppose to do the same. I often forget that crafting a Rule of Life is about formation and not perfection. Because it’s about formation, we should have the long view in mind, and start simple, with one or two practices. Then once we hone these in, we work out from there. My personality often wants to do it all and try it all, but when it comes to crafting a Rule that will form me into the likeness of Christ, this tendency is not helpful. I have to build up my muscles of faith and remember that it’s about “a long obedience in the same direction,” as Eugene Peterson writes in his book with this title.
I lived in a community where for two years I prayed Morning and Evening Prayer every day. The reality of life these days makes that really hard. I have found that it’s important to craft my Rule of Life based on the reality of my life, not my idealized spiritual self. My hope is that my formation will lead me to the place where I wake up, spend an hour in prayer and can’t wait to come back for more. But for now, I ask for God’s grace to give me a strong five minutes of morning prayer time before anything else and then, from a place of connection with the Father, the grace to be aware of his presence throughout my day and to live into the rest of my Rule of Life. Prayer seems a like a good place to start, maybe it will be for you as well.