As a spiritual discipline for Lent, I work up early to pray. It was horrible. It was beautiful. It was comical. And I think, somewhere deep inside, it changed me.
I started off each prayer time with centering prayer. Centering Prayer is a method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer, prayer in which we experience God’s presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself. This method of prayer is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship. (http://www.centeringprayer.com/) You are supposed to pick a word of invitation for centering prayer, and for all of Lent I used the word Peace.
After centering prayer, I prayed through the Common Prayer Book: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. Common Prayer is a tapestry of daily prayers inviting faith communities from around the world to pray, sing, and act together. The book celebrates the best of the Christian tradition and engage with the most pressing issues of our world today. (www.commonprayer.net)
In the midst of the 40 days of Lent, I slept-in more than I care to admit, was frequently joined by my two year old daughter, my son was born, went mini-viral, accompanied friends through challenging times, went to a youth retreat, got sick, and came to a deep appreciation of the mystery of prayer and its effect on my life.
I also kept a journal.
Day 1 – Really good. Peaceful. Quiet. Really tired by 4 o’clock, so I took a nap. It’s hard to be present to my family when I’m so tired…
Day 2 – My mind is going a mile a minute. “Peace” is my centering prayer word again. Great youth last night, tons of walking with people through the harder parts of life. Praying for them all takes a lot of time. Arianna came out of her bed early and blew out my candle. Twice. So I ended by saying the Lord’s prayer together.
Day 3 – Checked my email beforehand. More bad news from friends. I cried. My heart is heavy. But best centering prayer yet. I was the least distracted and most at peace and present to in the moment. Praying for a lot of people went well. I am getting used to waking up early.
Day4 – Sunday. Went to bed at 1am because I was playing some iPad game where I have to make a virus infect the entire world. Oops. Took my cheat Sunday (Is that a thing?). Back at it tomorrow.
Day 5 – My brother and sister-in-law are in labour. There is a blizzard. I am a bit distracted. Arianna and Elmo joined me for centering prayer, which became Common Prayer quickly. She woke up and ran to me excited and gave me a hug. I loved it. We said the Lord’s Prayer together. And then she put Elmo in her mouth and started chewing and shaking him like a dog toy.
Day 6 – Distracted. But a good distracted. At peace. But had to nap again I love getting hugs in the morning from Arianna. The pitter-patter of her running to me is priceless. At work, Mel encouraged me in my centering prayer. He said to keep doing it and people will notice.
Day 7 – Epic fail. We went to see my new nephew last night and we all went to bed late. Arianna woke up early and I slept in. So when I went to pray, she came with me.
I gave her the iPad on mute so I could pray without distraction. From the couch she yelled, “Daddy! No sound”
Hmmm… What to do… I know! Earbuds! I showed her how they worked, and then proceeded to try to put them in her ears while she kicked and screamed and covered her ears screaming “I don’t want to!” Argh. The rest of my centering prayer time had Cookie Monster in the back doing a science experiment seeing if underpants float. (In your best Cookie Monster voice) “Call national news! They do!”
Day 8 – Much better. No Arianna. Peace filled distractions.
Day 9 – I hit snooze three times. Crap. “Arianna, do you want to go back to bed?” “No! I’m awake now!” Considering she was hovering around the candle again, prayer went remarkably well. Tired though. A lot of people to pray for at the end. Good distractions.
Day 10 – Not much to report. Arianna had her stuffed Elmo was clapping during prayer time. But I liked it. Arianna ran and hugged me. Not sure if I’m more present to anyone throughout the day, including God, but I am coming to treasure my mornings by myself.
Near the end Arianna wanted raisins. I got up from my prayer corner (the kitchen table) to go look for them. I couldn’t find them, and when I turned to offer her goldfish crackers, she smiled as told me she had blown out the candle again. I am seeing a pattern here.
Day 11 – Sunday. Technically a cheat day. But I still got up to pray. I treasured it. Still not very centered at times. But I’m starting to care less about how successful my prayer times are. Arianna came and played Play-Doh, and put the bucket on her head. After, I read stories from Conspire Magazine on grace, gratitude and celebration. I cried. www.conspiremagazine.com
Day 12 – Arianna crawled into bed with Ash, so I got some good silence in. Once again, my mind is busy. There was a large community meeting about anti-bullying legislation and religious freedoms last night. Peace. Peace. Peace.
Day 13 – The little munchkin woke up before I did. Ash kicked her out of our room so she could sleep. She was bashing her doll on the table while I tried to pray. Peace.
Day 14 – Ash is in labour. Just did a quick common prayer. There will be a whole lot more peace prayers shortly.
Day 15 – Labour still. Two nights of no sleep. I’m glad God is graceful.
Day 16 – Zachary Micah Enns Penner was born today. I skipped centering prayer. When I held him about 4 minutes after he was born, I said, “Zachary, may you do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly.” I wept.
Day 17 – I think. My life is a blur. No sleep. I don’t even know what day it is. I will start praying again tomorrow. But I love my kids!
Day 18 – Zach has taken over my bed. Arianna is playing iPad. So I am praying in Zach’s room.
I am so tired. So. So tired. Between the kids and getting a letter to the editor of the local newspaper published about the suicide rate of GLBTQ kids, my mind wanders…
I had a good common prayer… I prayed for a lot of people.
Day 19 – Good. At 4:30 am, one kid was popping and peeing in the midst of a diaper change while the other one was crawling over me into bed. Waking up early to pray is hard.
Centering prayer was good. Short, but good. During common prayer, I prayed for the people who are pissing me off. It was hard. I have to do it again tomorrow.
Day 20 – Good. Tired. I Had to put Arianna’s new climbing harness on for her before she’d let me pray. I prayed for people who are making me mad. I prayed for myself that I’d not say anything stupid. I prayed that I could love my enemies.
I prayed the following from the Common Prayer book: As the morning casts off the darkness, Lord, help us to cast aside any feelings of ill will we might harbor against those who have hurt us. Soften our hearts to work toward their conversion and ours. Amen.
Am I willing to be converted?
Day 21 – Better. Peace. Prayed for the people who made me mad… Good. A couple of meetings today that I don’t want to go to. Help.
Day 22 – Good. I prayed for the people who make me angry. And then I read the Free Press and the front page article about a local church’s sermon on the proposed anti-bullying legislation. I spit out coffee.
Day 23 – Wow. What a whirlwind. Good centering prayer. But my mind was going a mile a minute. I declined television interviews yesterday. I’m glad I did. I prayed first for people who make me angry. May we work to love everyone and bear fruit.
From my Common Prayer book: Lord God, when the hungry are fed, the sick healed, the lonely made family, the outcast brought in, the sinner forgiven, the tyrant transformed, and the enemy reconciled, we know your work by the fruit it produces. May our lives bear fruit worthy of your name. Amen.
I am sharing with people that I have spent my mornings praying for the anti-bill 18 crowd. They are calling me a saint. Ha. I am not a saint. I just need Jesus to help me love my enemies.
Day 24 – Centering prayer got interrupted by Arianna making space for me in bed for a family “bed in”. What’s the point in centering prayer increasing my awareness if I miss out the beautiful things around me? So I stopped praying and jumped into bed with my family.
I am finding that during my Common Prayer “pray for others“, my list is getting longer and longer. There is a lot of brokenness in this world. I’ve also told a lot more people this lent that I am praying for them. I love praying. It centers me, saves me, and makes me more loving. I love praying. I could not have said this 24 days ago.
I officiated at a funeral today. I am aware of the gift he was. I am more aware of a lot things. The world is on fire… Must walk humbly and be aware of God around me.
Day 25 – Cheat day. Daylight savings time. I stayed up late finishing my blog post about Bill 18. Wow. Thousands of views. Thousands of shares. Lord have mercy.
We had a beautiful church service this morning. We shared and cried and prayed.
From my Common Prayer book: Teresa of Avila, a sixteenth-century Spanish mystic, said, “Let nothing disturb you, nothing dismay you. All things are passing, God never changes. Patient endurance attains all things. God alone suffices.”
Day 26 – I went mini-viral. May people find the hope they need. Help me be more present to my family today…
Day 27 – Peace. May I not fear, but trust.
Day 28 – Peace. Tired. A lot of people to pray for. I’m not sure I want to carry this burden. It’s a good one, but I’m finding it a harder to carry than I thought.
From my Common Prayer book: Lord, you ask us not to fear but to trust. Help our unbelief and grant us faith to stand fast in our love for one another. Amen.
Day 29 – Note to self: Don’t check email before centering prayer.
Day 30 – I didn’t write anything down.
Day 31-32 – We prayed through Common Prayer at our senior youth retreat. It’s much better with more people. We even did evening prayers and kneeled when we confessed. My life would be better if I did two prayer times a day and not just one. Maybe next Lent…
Day 33 – Back to two kids and no sleep. I slept through centering prayer. I started reading Brennan Manning’s Ruthless Trust. Must trust. Trust comes through prayer.
Day 34 – Centering prayer was interrupted by baby barf. Awesome.
Day 35 – Easter is 10 days away. How the heck do these 40 days of Lent work anyways?
Both kids up before me. Zach is in the baby swing. Arianna is jumping on Zach in the baby swing. And turning the music loud. Ash is sleeping. Now Zach is grunting. Now Arinna wants to watch Veggie Tales. Now Arianna is crying because there’s no Veggie Tales. Oh well. No prayer today.
Day 36 – I don’t think Sundays count toward the forty days. Oh well. My Lenten prayer discipline will be longer than 40 days. I end with one word prayers for lots of people.
Day 37 – So tired. Baby. And Arianna is watching Veggie Tales in the background. So distracted. Busy day with lots of people… May I be more silent today than most days.
Day 38 – May I be light. I said weird things to my friend today. I said, “I need prayer. I like prayer. I’m at peace.” I am learning to live in this deep Christian spirituality. I pray more. I talk about God and prayer more. It centers me. Weird.
Day 39 – Sick
Day 40- Very sick.
Day 41 – Still sick. Did Common Prayer. It felt good to be back on track.
Day 42 – No sleep. Grunty baby all night. Skipped prayer. Felt it. But I sang Come and fill my heart with your peace. I love that song.
Day 43 – I swear I have the grunt-iest baby that ever did grunt. I’m trying to let Ash sleep, but it’s hard to pray when it sounds like there’s a warthog rooting around in your living room. Plus, I should have wiped the table from supper yesterday. And, I think my morning prayer times need more confession.
And that’s it. Easter weekend is upon us. What a crazy Lent. And I loved it.
My hope and my prayer is that I continue to carve out space to be present to God. Because when I do, I truly believe that it makes a difference. Maybe both me and the world change for the better. Or maybe it’s just me being more aware of the sacred spaces already around me. Either way, I love it.
Lord have mercy.