Discerning Reader Editorial Review
Reviewed 06/04/2009 by Chad Vandervalk.
Recommended. Valuable as an month-long devotional resource.
Prayer seems to be something that many of us really struggle with. We do not commit ourselves to regular times of prayer, often using the excuse that our whole lives should be prayer.
Now, Paul does say that we should pray without ceasing, but very few of us could say that we live our lives bathed in prayer.
A life lived without conscious acknowledgement of God’s presence and activity is not a life of prayer.
Morning and evening prayer has always been a mainstay of my tradition, though it seems to have fallen out of favour over the last few generations. The reason for that can be debated, but I for one realise how this lack of rhythm has hampered my spiritual life.
The Missio Dei community in Minneapolis has put together a breviary for morning and evening prayers over four weeks, and reading it over the past month I found it to be a real blessing. Every morning there is a mix of repetition from the previous week and new scripture readings, along with short prompts to help deepen the reflection and prayer after a given reading. The evening prayers are a bit longer, including more scripture reading.
I come from a tradition which, historically, has been somewhat at odds with that of the Missio Dei community. The Reformers (my tribe) did not look too favourably upon the Anabaptists (the Missio Dei’s tribe) for quite a long time. The benefit of this book, however, is that there is very little theological content. There are no real meditations or directives given. Naturally the community may have selected some scripture passages which are not central to my tradition, but in that case it is probably good to spend some time thinking about them. The short reflections that they do provide are simply to help you enter the text. For example, after reading Luke 15:11-32, the parable of the prodigal son, there is this reflection:
Pray for the prodigals. Pray too for those who resent the prodigals. Reflecting upon your own sins, repent and seek the Lord’s loving forgiveness.
Time and again the breviary avoids interpreting the text and simply attempts to help us hear it.
While I appreciate the ability of a volume like this to introduce someone to the practice of daily prayer, I find that it is too short to be of real use year round. This may be something I return to every advent, or lent, for example, but it would be too repetitive to use month after month. Overall I found this to be a very simple and helpful guide to assist me in my daily prayer life.