Prometheus had compassion upon humanity and gave them a gift. He erased their knowledge of the day of their death. He placed within them blind hope that compelled them to do great things. He gave them fire. This is the story that Eugene Peterson uses to begin his book Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Ministry. This is part of his trilogy for pastoral ministry. While intended for pastors my assumption is that it works for all those who belong to the priesthood of all believers. He looks at three angles of one’s life – prayer, scripture and spiritual direction.
According to the Greek myth the gift of not knowing when we will die has led us to believe that we are immortal. Without death to think about we can now pursue our “blind” ambitions with reckless abandon. The problem with this, though, is that we forget about the gods – the God in our case. Fire only compounds the difficulty of the matter. With fire, which is any form of technology, we strengthen our belief in ourselves to accomplish great things. We have become independent and self-sufficient. We no longer need the gods. We are the gods.
For those who follow Jesus we have made things worse. Many of us have abandoned the Psalms – the prayer book of Israel and of God’s grafted-in-people – in favor of much simpler, more tame prayers. Even for those who want to pray we have not been trained in the art of prayer, nor have we enrolled in the Psalms school of prayer. We have become disconnected from the biblical language of prayer.
To make matters worse we have failed to sabbath; to quit, to stop. We are immortal, so the myth goes, and we have great technology that must be used for the good of humanity. However, God has declared that we sabbath. We are to reserve one day a week for praying and playing. If we want to recover a life that is deeply embedded in the life of God we must recover sabbath and prayer.
How? I’m not sure but here is my plan.
- Honestly evaluate my own life and tendency to deny my mortality or need for God. How often do I stay up late working because if I don’t it will all fall apart? Do I push myself to the extreme without no regard for my own limitations (or the limitations of my family)?
- Keep sabbath. As a pastor I help my congregation keep sabbath on Sundays so why not keep my own sabbath one day a week. My plan is to reserve Mondays for praying and playing with my family.
- Get acquainted with the Psalms. I am using the Book of Common Prayer as my guide. Every morning and evening I am reading 3-4 psalms. I am finding that they are truly becoming prayers by simply saying “Amen” at the end of each psalm.
What about you? How is your prayer life and your rhythm of sabbath keeping? Is it time for some revamping? Why not join me?