Praying with the Church 3 – Praying with Jesus: Sacred Rhythms

Posted: July 19th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Praying with the Church | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Praying with the Church 3 – Praying with Jesus: Sacred Rhythms

These are reflections on Scot McKnight‘s book, Praying with the Church, that I wrote and shared with a small circles of friends in 2006. I’ve decided to publish them here only lightly edited. Since they are four years old, they don’t necessarily reflect exactly what I would say today, but they do accurately capture my reaction at the time.

In this chapter, Scot begins by outlining how it slowly dawned on him, breaking through preconceptions and prejudices, that Jesus actually participated in the prayer life of his people. Coming to Scripture without those preconceptions, I never doubted it myself, even if I had a hard time connecting it to the things the church does today. It’s a good (some might say ‘postmodern’) illustration of how our lenses distort and shape what we see that a biblical scholar specializing in Jesus studies should have such a hard time breaking free of his particular lens and seeing what was right in front of his face. As soon as he understood that, though, he immediately began learning how to pray not just in the church, but with the church as well.

The rhythm of Jewish set prayers were three times a day, morning, noon, and night. Scot shows some of the biblical instruction for and description of that rhythm. Daniel even refused to abandon the set times of prayer when he knew that failing to do so could cost him his life. Scot then points to Jesus’ reference to fixed hour prayer and the early church’s practice of it in scripture. The Didache (a first century manual on the Christian life) tells us Christians prayed the Lord’s Prayer three times a day.

We need to advance one step now: What is important for us today for spiritual formation is that time for Jesus was shaped by a three-times-a- day sacred rhythm. time was measured by the hours of prayer.

Similarly, we must learn to allow prayer and thus God to shape and form our lives by shaping and forming our days and our time. “Jesus came of age in a Judaism shaped by a three-times-a-day-we-all-stop-and-pray- together sacred rhythm.” But it’s not about “establishing exact rules and times.” Rather, it is about learning to consecrate our whole day to God.

Rhythmical prayer sounds simple: Just stop what you are doing a few times in the day to pray with others, whether we see these others or not. But there are few things in life as hard as establishing good habits.

We need to find a rhythm and stick to it until it becomes a habit. For me, I’ve found the Shema as Jesus revised it a starting point and something I can pray each morning and evening and spend a moment reflecting on as I pray.

“Hear, O Israel. The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. And the second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

As I say that, knowing it is also the thought and mind of Christians around the world, it becomes increasingly difficult to forget it during the course of the day.


The Didache 2 – The Way of Love

Posted: June 12th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Didache | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Didache 2 – The Way of Love

This series is reflecting on the Didache if you want to read it separately.

The way of life, then, is this: First, you shall love God who made you; second, love your neighbor as yourself, and do not do to another what you would not want done to you.

What lies at the heart of the way of life? Love.

It seems that the import of this, which permeates the New Testament and all we know of the early church, is easy for us to miss today. In part it’s because we miss what Jesus has actually done because we have not risen with the Shema Israel on our lips nor retired for sleep with it lingering on our breath. I was always aware of some connection, but didn’t really grasp it myself until I encountered Scot McKnight’s exploration of what he calls the Jesus Creed. The Sh’ma Yisrael, drawn from Deuteronomy 6 was and is the central creed of Judaism. At least twice a day, every observant Jews prays the Shema.

If you’ve never heard it prayed liturgically, I invite you to pause and listen and soak in the Hear, O Israel!

It so permeates life that you find it in popular music. I found this song beautiful and found a version to share with some English subtitles.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KyXM5QMWnFo

Only as you understand the depth and the centrality of the Shema within the life of Israel will you grasp how radical it was for Jesus to change it. He was not giving two random prooftexts from the Torah as external commandments we must perform. Rather, he had the chutzpah to add another line to the central creed of Judaism, revealing how to fulfill that creed. This is the Shema of Jesus.

Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all you mind, and with all your strength. And the second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.

If we have eyes to see, it’s written throughout the New Testament Holy Scriptures, shaping everything in them. And we see it here, in the Didache, as the foundational declaration of the way of life. The Didache links this to what is often called the negative form of the Golden Rule. The Gospels tend to focus on the positive form. But I would say that both are simply natural outworkings of the Shema of Jesus. If you love God and each human being you meet, you will not do to them the things you do not want done to you and you will do for them the things you would have done for you. When that is not true, it is unlikely that you love them. And if you cannot love them, how can you love God?