“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for the knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out.” -Alcoholics Anonymous, Step 11
Maintaining a regular time of prayer and meditation can be difficult. I’ve been in ordained ministry for twenty-five years, yet I’ve got a confession to make: I have always struggled with my devotional life. Prayer and meditation have never come easy for me. It wasn’t that the desire wasn’t there; I really did want to spend time with God on a regular basis, and get to know him better. And I certainly felt the yearning in my heart to do so. What was missing was the discipline, the follow-through to actually do it.
Perhaps you’ve felt challenged in this area of your recovery as well. I’ve had people tell me they don’t know what to say to God when praying or how to actually go about meditating. As Anglican Christians, we are blessed with a rich resource to assist us in making our own ‘quiet time’ more meaningful: The Daily Office in the The Book of Common Prayer. Nearly 500 years ago, in 1549, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer introduced this new book of liturgies, psalms and prayers to the Church of England. Cranmer greatly admired the piety of monks and nuns whose daily lives revolved around prayer, reflection and service. In these religious communities prayers were said up to seven times each day; Cranmer realized that it was probably unrealistic to expect the majority of the faithful to keep such a rigorous schedule. So the Archbishop endeavored to distill these seven prayer times into four daily “offices,” or “duties.” (from the Latin, officium)
Find a Prayer Book and turn to page 136. There you’ll find “Daily Devotions for Children and Families.” You’ll see that there are readings and prayers for Morning, Noon, Early Evening, and at the Close of Day. You don’t have to say them all each day; if your schedule works better to begin your prayers at noon, then start there. Perhaps evening, after supper, is a time when you have some extra moments to spend with God. The point is to build some time into each day when you can slow down and take a ‘sacred pause’, giving thanks to God for the strength he’s given you to stay clean and sober, and reminding yourself of the myriad of ways he’s blessed you. St. Clement of Alexandria once defined prayer as “keeping company with God.” That’s all we have to do; simply show up with an open heart and mind, expecting that our time spent in God’s presence will change us and give us strength for whatever challenges lay ahead. Daily prayer and meditation are spiritual disciplines; in our culture the word “discipline” is sometimes viewed negatively, usually thought of as some sort of punishment. But discipline has a good side, too; and it is through consistent disciplines such as these that Godly character is formed in us. St. Paul writes:
“…we glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:4)
Those of us who have struggled with addiction have had enough of suffering; now is the time to build, slowly but surely, one step and one day at a time, a new life of freedom.