It’s the same every morning. The dog barks. I sit on the edge of my bed for a moment. Go downstairs and give Daisy her Bonio. Put the kettle on. Let her out. Make a large mug of tea. Let her in. Excited at the new day, Daisy does her party trick of leaping from one sofa to the other.
Then we sit. The only sounds are birds singing, the fridge humming, a clock ticking and the radiators waking up.
‘To you O Lord, my soul in stillness waits,’ as one of the great songs of Advent puts it.
Prayer. Asking for God’s blessing on the day ahead. Prayer for the three people I love most. Prayer for those who work – refuse collectors, shop workers, NHS staff; those facing difficult meetings; those finding fulfilment; those fearful of job loss. Prayer for myself. Sometimes rambling. Sometimes concise. The same words begin. The same words end.
It sets up the day. Whatever the day may bring. A sure foundation.
On this Advent Sunday, as a new Christian year begins, it is perhaps good to reflect on how prayer sets up all we do and all we are and all we are to be.
‘Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain.’ (Psalm 127)
(As an aside, that Psalm also speaks to those who work too much… ‘It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil.’)
The centrality of the prayer is the foundation on which the Lord builds the house which we not only inhabit but also reflects our total being.
And yet, for many of us, it’s difficult to develop and maintain a routine of prayer. (My evening time is much more variable.)
Perhaps that’s because we are trying to be like someone else? We try to be a better Christian based on what other people do – or what we perceive them to be doing. ‘I wish I could pray like you’, ‘I should be reading the Bible every day but…’ How on earth do any of us know how someone else prays!?
If someone else finds extemporary prayer helpful then that’s great but it may not suit you. If someone doesn’t find structured liturgy helpful that doesn’t mean to say that you won’t. Silence or speaking in tongues, how other people pray is of no consequence. There is no one, single, right way to pray.
It’s important to find an approach that reflects both you and your unique relationship with God – and what God wants for you as the person you are.
So back to the edge of the bed. The words of Psalm 25. The same prayer starts every day before anything else…
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust.
May that be a prayer for all of us in the year ahead.