First up is Fixed-Hour Prayer.
The whole point of this discipline is to stop and refocus on God throughout the day. Fixed hour prayer is a reminder that Jesus is with you, every step of the way, and that God created time and is in every minute of the day. Fixed hour prayer is a way to keep remembering that life is about more deadlines and papers, practices and jobs; there's something (someone) more important. The quote in our book states:
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour and that one is what we are doing. A schedule defends us from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.If you've ever gone through the day and wondered what you did with it, if you've ever gone a while without praying because you just forgot (and now you maybe feel a bit distant from God), if you want a bit of extra strength to get you through the days, fixed-hour prayer can be a great way for you to structure yourself and your life. And despite Ms. Dillard's comment about defending from whim, I don't think fixed-hour prayer is opposite spontaneity and whimsical attitudes. It can go hand in hand with the breath prayer. It can go hand in hand with a spontaneous, unplanned day. Fixed-hour prayer isn't about plodding through the day, never letting something new and unexpected whirl you around. It's just a way of remembering that within the whirling, God is right there with you. So take a moment to talk to Him, and see if that doesn't make the whirling even better.
But this whole idea of needing a way to stop the busy-ness around you and refocus on God isn't a new thing. I was surprised to read that the ancient Jewish tradition included fixed hour prayer- I've typically always associated it with the slightly newer Islamic faith (though since they have the same faith root, it shouldn't be a big surprise to me). As a devout ancient Jew, Jesus Himself likely followed the practice of praying at the temple at noon and 3:00; His disciples also prayed at fixed times (Acts 3:1, 10:3, 9, 30). Early Christian believers were encouraged to pray the Lord's Prayer 3 times a day. St. Benedict is known for his 8 prayer times each day, and Benedictines continue the tradition today that was started 1,600 years ago. If you decide to go whole-hog, Benedict's focus on the "sanctification of time" includes:
- night prayer- vigils
- waking-up prayer- lauds
- prayers for beginning work- prime
- giving-thanks prayer in mid-morning- terce
- noon-day prayer of commitment- sext
- mid-afternoon prayer- none
- evening prayer of stillness- vespers
- going-to-sleep prayer of trust- compline
It might be hard to suddenly introduce 8 new times of prayer into your day- or it might not, depending on how good you are with a timer or the alarm function of your phone. Some of you might already have a set time that you pray- in the morning or before you go to bed, before you eat, or maybe you pray every day before you start a particularly hard task. To incorporate this discipline, maybe you just add in one or two times throughout the day that you stop and pray, then evaluate it after a week; maybe you decide you like this new focus and add in another time of fixed-hour prayer.
Our two links in this post are both links to the Islamic fixed-prayer tradition. In the first, we listened to the full Islamic Call to Prayer, which is played/called from the minaret of the mosque 5 times a day. In the second link (Saudia Arabian Call to Prayer), we see what that looks like: a woman doing a TV special is brought to her guide's roof in order to hear and see the call, and the beauty of it brings her to tears (even though she's not Muslim). And I can see why: EVERYTHING stops. No one questions why the shops are closing, no one jostles or fights- the beautiful singing just brings everyday life to a standstill as the people remember their god and their faith. And even those Muslims who can't get to a mosque (though we don't see it in the video) will stop at the prescribed times in order to face Mecca and pray; their entire faith community is united in worship, all across the world, 5 times a day. Their relationship with their god trumps money, social activities, and every other concern. God is truly first. Can you say that about your life?
Our second discipline is where we get our post title: Truth-Telling. We've all been taught since we were little kids that lying is bad. We probably all have funny stories that brought that lesson home to us. But this discipline is so much more than that. This truth telling is about how we spin, distort, rationalize, gossip, and lie to ourselves.
Do you find yourself giving partial explanations that make it look like a failing wasn't really your fault? Do you try to make yourself look better, take credit, or skew a story so that you come out on top? Do you follow through on your promises and commitments? Do you ever "suck up" to someone to get what you want? Do you make sure that everything you say about someone or to someone is true? Did you verify it, to make sure you aren't spreading lies (even unintentionally)? Do you exaggerate a story to make it more sensational/news-worthy? Do you tell yourself you have more time to complete a task, even though deep down you know that you don't- and your work (and potentially other people) will suffer for it? Do you rationalize behavior, activities, relationships, grudges or obsessions? Do you have to justify things in your life? Do you ever tell yourself that you're worthless, not good enough, or unlovable (or on the flip side, that you're perfect, couldn't possibly screw up, and that you always make great decisions)?
It's a rare person who can answer all of those questions with a "no." In fact, I'd venture to say that someone who said they don't now and never have done any of that is still right in the thick of lying to himself. We all do these things to some extent, though we may not struggle with every facet, and it's amazing the lengths to which we humans will go to stretch and manipulate the truth (even when it doesn't make us feel one iota better). And always, ALWAYS, there is a rupture relationship to pay the price. It might be that your credit-grabbing, exaggeration, or failure to follow through means that someone else is hurt or loses faith in you, or it might be that your truth-stretching, rationalization, or self-lies shatter your sense of your own worth and integrity. Either way, God is right there in the lie- and He doesn't miss a trick. He knows the sense of disappointment or betrayal of the other person, and He feels how your diminishing integrity and self-love create a gap in your ability to connect with Him. He feels them, even when you've yet to recognize the difference.
So what can we do to help ourselves tell the truth? The book has a couple of reflection questions (italicized questions are added by me) and then a couple of exercises (and of course, prayerful reflection and communication with God is always an answer):
1. How do you live out God's reality about the goodness of telling the truth? (Do you see why it's worthwhile? How does that show up in your life? What are you telling Him when you lie about how things really happened?)
2. When do you use a sliding scale of honesty, exaggeration, or partial truths to get what you want? (When are you most tempted to skew the truth? What tempts you- acceptance, admiration, avoiding punishment?)
3. How has someone's honesty or lack thereof affected you?
4. When has it cost you to be honest? What was that like for you?
1. Take some uninterrupted time to assess your honesty. Think back over the past week. When/where have you been tempted to stretch the truth, take advantage of a privilege, break a commitment, or gossip? What do you see about yourself? Where is it hardest for you to tell the truth? (Write a prayer of confession in your journal, or tell it to a friend, asking her to pray for you).
2. Practice one of these habits for the coming week: not exaggerating, not gossiping, not rationalizing. What is that like for you?
3. What lies to do you tend to tell yourself? What tapes do you play in your head? Talk to God about what this is like, and then look at Psalm 139 (or look up The Father's Love Letter) and see what God has to say about His view of you. Does that change anything for you?
5 minutes of God Time: A dulcimer version of "Here I am, Lord" (here's a version with lyrics, sung by Bobby San Juan)