Dave Everson

Worshiping alone together

lectionaryI’m not good at daily devotions/quiet times/whatever-you-call-them. It’s not a habit I have found easy to cultivate. Nonetheless, I work at it because I believe in it, and I’ve experienced it’s value.

For reasons I don’t totally understand, as I have gotten older, personal devotional time has become both more meaningful and more essential.[1] One key was borrowing other people’s prayers, especially the Psalms and the Lord’s Prayer. The Psalms are wordy and cover a lot of spiritual and emotional ground. The Lord’s Prayer is very concise, and yet the scope of its requests is incredibly broad. Between the two, I have found language to express almost any situation, any need, any gratitude.

Another key was a book called, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants. I’ve been using it on and off for close to 15 years. What sets The Guide apart from other devotionals I’ve tried is the way it’s organized around the Christian calendar and the Revised Common Lectionary.[2] That means each week my devotional time is more or less aligned with that of many Christians throughout the world. Together, we are exploring ideas and praying prayers that have been explored and prayed by God’s people for centuries.

In other words, those ancient, well-used prayers and shared themes add a community element that makes my devotions more engaging. Personal devotions are still personal, but somehow it feels like I have have help carrying the weight of prayer, if that makes any sense.

Anyway, I’ve been pulling pieces of that experience into Sunday morning worship over the last year. Most Sundays, I open and close the service with a scripture and a prayer. Lately, I’ve chosen them from the week’s lectionary readings. And I’ve begun posting the upcoming Sunday’s readings on our website each Monday. My hope is that you’ll consider adding them into your personal devotions and find some of the same meaningfulness that I have.

If you want to take part, here’s my suggestion: don’t make it complicated. Do what works for you. Pray the readings for yourself or for others. Use all or part of them. Do them once a day, twice a day, once a week, whatever. Dwell on them for a while or keep it short and sweet. The point is not to create a burden, but to find workable ways to weave these readings into your devotional practices. I’ve been learning and relearning this for years. I’ll never be done, and neither will you.

This can become a shared piece of our individual devotions each week, leading up to our worship together on Sunday. It’s a way to carry our worship throughout the week. And it’s a new way to experience unity, even when we’re apart, outside the walls of the church.

Each Monday, you can find the next set of readings at mosaicny.org/this-sunday/.

[1] Although not easier. I think the best way to describe my devotional life is organic: if I keep it reasonably structured, and if I feed it, it gives life. If I ignore it or let it fall apart, life seeps away. It’s a shame that the word organic is so often used to mean “unstructured, automatic and easy.” Truly organic things are none of those.

[2] A three-year cycle of scriptures, aligned with the church calendar, and used by many churches in their weekly services. It is applied more or less strictly depending on the denomination and local congregation’s styles.

Photo Credits
Lectionary: Justin Taylor; CC BY 2.0