Almighty God, Father of all mercies,
we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks for all your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all whom you have made.
We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up ourselves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory throughout all ages.
(Prayer of General Thanksgiving, Book of Common Prayer)
A few years ago, I found myself unable to pray.
I don't really know how or why it happened, but somehow I just couldn't find the words to talk to God---this, after a lifetime of easy conversation with Him.
I found myself wondering:
Is prayer all about me asking for things?
Is prayer a battle, to be fought in a "war room?"
Is prayer silent meditation, or loud declarations of scripture?
Is prayer more effective (i.e. getting God to answer) if I use the right words or get enough people to agree with me in prayer?
What is the purpose of prayer, if "God has everything under control" anyway?
Maybe it seems like these are pretty basic questions for a (ahem) "mature believer" to be asking, but I had to be gut-level honest for once in my life, and there I was.
I was at a standstill with my doubts and questions.
I didn't know what to do.
Someone suggested to me that I simply stop trying so hard. They pointed me toward The Book of Common Prayer, and the idea of praying a "Daily Office," which meant following a liturgy--a prescribed list of prayers and readings--morning and evening.
This was absolutely so foreign to me, I instantly rejected the idea.
I didn't believe in engaging in vain repetitions and meaningless rituals...at least that's how I had always thought about it.
But then I thought, "What do I have to lose?"
Since was not currently praying AT ALL, what could it hurt?
I purchased a print Book of Common Prayer and gave it a try. Right off the bat I found it confusing. There was too much page-flipping involved, and trying to figure out my place each day proved difficult. I almost gave up.
That's when I discovered online versions of the Daily Office. And APPS! There were apps.I could easily open an app (here is my favorite) and have the daily prayers and scripture readings organized for me in one place. This made all the difference.
One day at a time, one moment at a time, one prayer at a time.
I simply let the prayers--beautiful, heartfelt words that were full of good theology and grace--carry me forward.
I didn't expect anything grand. To be candid, I really didn't expect anything at all.
But something, something was changing inside.
As I prayed along with the daily liturgy, I felt a shift.
I found life being breathed into my spirit.
I began to find the words to pray, not just in the letters on the page, but on my own...from my heart.
I started to listen more.
I worried less.
My anxieties about prayer faded away.
I was learning, slowly, that God can surprise us in unexpected ways, and His grace can meet us wherever we are.
You can read more about my prayer journey in Walking With Henry, my newest book that releases March 5.