Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Year of This Day

The blog has been a little heavy on book reviews lately but this one is a little different. This review will represent the most time I have ever spend reviewing a book before I wrote about it. Although I purchased Laurence Hull Stookey's This Day, A Wesleyan Way of Prayer back in about 2005 when it came out, it sat on my shelf until last November when I decided to give it a look. And I have been giving it a look since then. Actually, I have been doing more than looking at it or reviewing it, I have been using it as the basis for my time of morning prayer just about every day since last November. While there is no one prayer resource (nor method or manner of prayer for that matter) for everyone, this is an excellent resource that ties our prayer life to scripture and our Wesleyan Heritage.

Before I go into the details of the book and how it works, let me share one detail that makes this book so useful in my life. The book is set up with a daily order of prayer for each day of the month. When the month is over you start over. Here is why this is important to me (and this may be a giant insight to my personality - if you are a psychologist and you want to follow up, let me know and I will send you my insurance information.) My shelves are littered with yearly books of prayer and scripture. These just don't work for me. I feel like I have to start them on January 1, which never works, and then when I don't I feel like I might as well throw in the towel until next year. Or, at some point during the year, something knocks my prayer routine off course and I stop using the resource for a while. And there is something it my oddly wired brain that makes it not feel okay to just skip that period and move on. I either feel like I need to catch up (which I don't) or give up and try something else. With This Day if you miss a day, you get to pick it up next month. If you miss a week, you will travel through that same week next month. For some, this might feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day (which, just for the record, I have shown a clip of in worship as a sermon illustration) but for me, it is just right.

Here is what you get. After an introduction of theological and practical explanation, there is a daily order of prayer. Each day includes some background scriptures and some thematic thoughts for the day and then the general order that goes like this:

Opening Prayer - A written prayer, which may seem different for some. I am an extemporaneous praying person. However, at 5:00 am, I need a little help to get started. There is also a beauty in written prayers in that they call us outside of ourselves to speak to God about some things that maybe we wouldn't think of.

Centering - In the beginning of the book, the author offers to practical way to center one's self on God.

Prayer for Illumination - Another written prayer invokes to Spirit in the reading of scripture.


Scripture - This item sends you to the back of the book to follow the reading from the lectionary. Once you figure out how to follow the three-year and two-year cycles, you will be following the Sunday lectionary readings followed by many protestant churches and a two-year cycle of daily readings that gives a pretty comprehensive tour of the Bible. Each day is assigned (in addition to the Psalm mentioned earlier) a reading from the Old Testament, a reading from the Epistles and a Gospel reading.

Contemplation - Time to reflect on and pray over the scripture for the day.

Acts Appropriate for the Day of the Week - The book offers written prayers appropriate for each day of the week. I have been praying these same prayers nearly every week for a year and they have not gotten old to me. They center my day and add a rhythm of prayer to the week.

Acts Appropriate for the Time of the Year - There are some beautiful prayers for the different seasons of the Christian year. I am especially fond of the multiple prayers for Advent.

Acts Appropriate to the Occasion - There are a few pages of prayers specific to certain situations in life involving life and death, illness and celebration, church and state that you are invited to pray.

The Prayer for the Whole Church - The order invites us to join with the Church Universal in The Lord's Prayer of One of the Creeds of the Church.


In the back of the book are some other nice resources including a way to use personal prayer to enhance one's participation in corporate worship, how to use the Psalms in time of trouble, and some advice on how to teach Children to Pray.

I know that as we come to the end of the year, many of us look back at what we wanted to improve in our life this year and didn't. If prayer is one of the areas of your life that you really want to enhance, this might be one way to get at it. This Day is available at The Word Store here at University.

Have you experienced This Day or have some other resources that you find helpful? Post a comment and let me know.



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