Someone pointed out to me recently that we repeat the prayers often. It’s true. We say the same words in the Episcopal Church over and over again. It seems odd. What if I don’t feel like the prayers that I’m supposed to say in Morning Prayer?
And that’s the point. What we pray out of the Prayer Book stretches us, molds us, reforms us. Saying over and over again “Glory to God in the highest…,” “I will, with God’s help,” “Our Father…” takes these words, the ideas they represent, with rhythm and repetition, and grafts them into our bones, at the very root of who we are.
Liturgical scholar Aidan Kavanagh wrote, “Rhythm constantly insinuates, as propagandists know. It constantly forms individuals into units, as demagogues and cheerleaders know. It both shrouds and bears meanings which escape mere words, as poets know. It fuses people to their values and forges them to common purpose, as orators such as Cato, Churchill, and Martin Luther King knew. It frees from sound and offers vision for this who yearn for it, as the preacher of the Sermon on the Mount knew.”
When we take these rhythms—the rhythms of devotion of God, and to God—and repeat them over and over again, day by day, week by week, year after year, we repeat our main objective. We repeat our reason for being. We repeat the thing from which all things spring. If “I will with God’s help,” is in my bones, then I am more likely to say “yes” when the Spirit calls, regardless of how I am feeling. To say “yes” when a neighbor calls, even if I’m tired. To say “yes” to the invitation to God’s kingdom, whatever form it takes. The rhythm and repetition of our prayer cracks us open and plants the seed of God’s grace deep with in us, and allows it to grow and flourish into new and transformed life.
Church of the Redeemer
Church of the Redeemer is at 6210 181st Street in Kenmore, Washington. We are a short distance north of Bothell Way, near the Burke-Gilman Trail. The entrance looks like a gravel driveway. The campus is larger on the inside than it is on the outside.
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