I begin my day with a cup of Irish Breakfast tea and a bowl of yogurt, granola, and fruit. I stand in the kitchen because I wake up early and don’t want to slump over the table. I open my Kindle to the day’s reading of the Divine Hours and begin to meditate.
Since having a baby, it is much harder to find solid chunks of time to just read the Bible. Routines can change with sleep patterns, naps, and teething. I read the Bible in chunks when I can, but the Divine Hours provide a stability and rhythm that I need in this season of parenthood where no two days are the same.
The Divine Hours I pray have been derived from the Liturgy of the Hours that many would consider a Catholic prayer guide, but which has roots in the early church.
The early Christians continued to pray at times similar to those used by the Jews. By the 5th Century, the Liturgy of the Hours took shape and became more and more widely used.
This isn’t something that got popular because of the internet.
This wasn’t something that took shape in one denomination.
This wasn’t something that a single theologian figured out.
This isn’t a new kid on the block kind of belief like sola scriptura.
These are readings of scripture that have been used for meditation and prayer for almost the entire existence of the church.
These readings guide me each day. They are a bedrock habit that call me away from email, writing ideas in my notebook, and blog posts for clients. Big book projects have to wait when I stand at the dish washer to pray through the hours.
As I meditate on scripture, my mind often wanders. Most mornings I pray through them twice. Sometimes I need a third pass to find my way.
Ethan is often sound asleep while I pray the hours. I like it that way. I like to think that I’m setting my mind and spirit in step with God. I’m opening myself to the leading of the Holy Spirit for the day and that I can perhaps be a little more patient and kind, setting a better example of what it looks like to be a father who follows Jesus.
These simple practices of meditating on scripture and praying in silence have been labeled “outside the bounds of evangelicalism” by a certain blogger because they are categorized as “mysticism.” I assume this blogger has made a simple but discrediting mistake of not reading enough church history. He doesn’t have to look far to see how these practices of prayer and meditation—“mysticism… Ooooooh”—have been nailed into the identity of the church over and over again.
They’ve been part of following Jesus far longer than the Reformation.
I began this day by praying the hours, and I’ll do the same tomorrow.
I frankly don’t care that this blogger thinks I’m a meditating heretic who will one day teach his sleeping son the disciplines of silence before God, Lectio Divina, and waiting on the Holy Spirit. I just hope that others won’t let his condemnation keep them from experiencing God.
Mystical encounters with God can be unsettling. They call us beyond the printed words of scripture into a real life experience with THE Way, THE Truth, and THE Life. The way, the truth, and the life are a person—a person who is alive and well.
It is possible to study the scriptures diligently in search of life and to still miss out on the one who gives life.
It is a frightening thing indeed to gamble your authority, theology, and control by encountering a living God who doesn’t have to play by our rules. That encounter with God is where mysticism leads, and it’s rarely a tidy destination.
The scriptures are not the destination. They are the sign that we grasp for in the early morning light with drips of caffeine and squinting eyes. The sign is pointing us to an encounter with God that could wreck our theologies and undermine our leadership. It could even send us to the far corners of the world to declare what we have seen and what we have heard.
Like the first believers in the book of Acts, we are witnesses, and our testimony isn’t to what we have seen on the page. Our testimony is that the pages of a book have somehow come alive in us as we’ve encountered a crucified and Risen Lord who will one day return to restore his creation.