We tend to focus on the big events, the landmark moments, the photographable experiences.
With our kids, it’s the first day of school, scoring the winning goal, getting baptized, performing in a play, getting dressed up for Halloween, opening Christmas presents. They are the highlights, the Facebookable moments.
All of them are important. Biblically, they are our Ebenezer moments, the times where we uniquely encounter God. So, like our biblical ancestors, we pile up rocks to remember what happened. That’s the biblical equivalent of an Instagram post.
But most of life happens in between these experiences. Most of it is forgettable. And much is what we wish we could forget.
Think of how much time we spend waiting in line to get gas, to buy food, to board planes — the lines at Disneyland are so much longer than the rides. Then there’s the drudgery of so much work and homework and work around the house. And there are the hours we kill watching mindless shows on TV (and, yes, TV news is entertainment) and playing video games (so close to 100% of Americans play them that statistically everyone does). And those other hours surfing the web and Facebook and watching cat videos.
We prepare meals. We commute to work and other events. We sleep. We bathe. We dress. We update software. We go to church. We exercise. We shop for necessary things (and unnecessary things).
So much of life is on auto-pilot that we simply don’t take it that seriously and ultimately don’t remember it.
But what if those were the times that we could encounter God on a regular and rhythmic basis? What if we had prayers that infused all of life with the sacredness of God’s holy presence?
That’s one of the things I love most about Celtic spirituality. They had prayers for everything. All of life became holy ground because all of life had a God-ward movement, all of life was God-touched, all of life was prayed.
The following Celtic prayers are taken from a David Adam collection.
Prayer upon rising
I rise with God,
May God rise with me.
The hand of God about me
In my waking and in my sleeping and in my rising up.
Prayer at dressing
Bless to me, O God,
My soul and my body;
Bless to me, O God,
My belief and my condition;
Bless to me, O God,
My heart and my speech,
And bless to me, O God,
The handling of my hand;
Strength and busyness of morning,
Habit and temper of modesty,
Force and wisdom of thought,
And Thine own path, O God of virtues,
Till I go to sleep this night;
Thine own path, O God of virtues
Till I go to sleep this night.
Blessing on the kindling
I will kindle my fire this morning.
God, kindle Thou in my heart within
A flame of love to my neighbor,
To my foe, to my friend, to my kindred all,
To the brave, to the knave, to the thrall,
O Son of the loveliest Mary,
From the lowliest thing that liveth,
To the Name that is highest of all.
Blessing the house
God bless the house,
From site to stay,
From beam to wall,
From end to end,
From ridge to basement,
From balk to roof-tree,
From found to summit,
From found to summit.
What I love about these prayers is that they arise from simple daily experiences, but they transform those experiences into something bigger and more encompassing than them. They inhabit a reality suffused with the holy, with God, and they pull the ordinary with them into that reality.
Brother Lawrence was a lay brother at a Carmelite monetary in Paris during the 1600s. As such, it’s no surprise to find him among those who are known for praying. But it wasn’t simply in chapels and in his cell that he practiced this vocation. It was as a bottle washer and a sandal repairer that he did what he called practicing the presence of God.
These daily activities that were as mundane as possible became the catalyst for a robust spirituality. He didn’t escape his bottle washing by practicing the presence, he elevated it. Bottle washing became his burning bush.
So, what would some basic prayers be like for us? Here’s an attempt at a prayer before driving a car and a blessing before washing dishes. They’re not great, but they’re a start.
A prayer for driving a car
Watch over me, Lord,
As I put key in ignition.
Watch over all who drive on the road.
Give us sobriety;
Give us alertness;
Give us kindness for others who drive;
Protect us from weather;
Protect us from mechanical defects;
Guide us to our destinations;
Your presence with us for every turn of the wheel,
That we might arrive safely
And be ministers of your grace
Wherever our wheels may roll.
Blessing the washing of dishes
We asked your blessing over our meal
So, now, bless these dirty dishes
And bless the one who washes.
As I clean them,
You clean me, O Lord,
Washing away every stain
Of hurt feelings,
Of any unforgiveness,
That I may be a clean vessel
Fit for your purposes.
Just as much as he does in the high and memorable moments, God is in the in-between. So, let’s develop a language, a way of praying, that arises from the need to dwell in his presence in the everydayness of our lives.