Sunday, April 15, 2012

Modus Operandi

One time in college my friends and I devoted ourselves to 15 minutes a day of prayer. I don’t remember exactly the impetus for the challenge, but it was probably a L.O.F.T. sermon (o tempora o mores!) about how we spend more time flossing out teeth than praying.[1] Several of us did it: three times a day for five minutes each. It must have been in the spring of my junior year at Calvin because I remember using my ice-cold 25-minute drive to Zondervan Publishing every morning as my morning prayer time. Things usually started like this:

So. So. So. So. Cold. God, I need gloves. Or better yet, I need You to make it not be winter in Michigan.

But five minutes of prayer, as anyone who has done it out loud[2] will tell you, is a long time, and after about one minute of complaining and another of focusing, I finally started to treat the conversation with the reverence it deserved. Perhaps others are more focused than I am,[3] but I’ve found that the best physical techniques for focused prayer are writing and speaking. Most days I write my prayers, but I truly miss those frigid drives down 28th street, through all 12 stoplights between 3005 Woodcliff and Zondervan, if only for the alone time to talk out loud with my God.

Nowadays I probably do about 15 minutes of praying a day (give or take), but it’s all at one time, usually, and it’s interspersed with K-pop songs and sticky-note lists of things to do in the office that day. So this week I’m going to do the challenge again: three times a day for five minutes[4] and at least one of those five has to be out loud. If you’d like to join me, here’s the only other rule:

No more than 10% of your prayer time (90 seconds a day) is spent on you: your needs, wants, and feelings.

Other than that, everything goes. Here’s a link to some great music to pray to. Each song centers on a single, life-changing Biblical truth. I personally am hoping to find some written prayers of Karl Barth’s and pray through those, but if that’s unavailable, I’ll probably turn to some online Catholic resources.[5] If anyone has any suggestions, leave a comment!

[1] I don’t floss, but clearly I was convicted that night, if not about dental hygiene.
[2] I’m sure everyone has their modus operandi, but I’ve rarely found silent, in-my-head praying effective. If I can make it thirty seconds through that kind of prayer without imagining juking three defenders to score the winning goal, mentally reciting my to-do list, or singing inane K-pop lyrics (“I’m so curious! Yeeeaah!”), I usually throw the towel in for the day because I will not be able to accomplish anything so impressive from there on out.
[3] Note: I’m skeptical. The human mind, particularly the human mind on crack known as the internet, is programmed to bounce around.
[4] The athlete in me says, “Three reps! That’s it?!”
[5] Because, let’s face it Protestants, the Catholics know how to do reverence and repetition a whole lot better.



    Perhaps because of some of my life experiences, I find Gregorian Chant quite soothing and prayerful. The one that was playing when I searched for this example had too many echos from a large room (cathedral?).