While searching for items for the weekend Real Clear Religion update, this piece on prayer by Jessica “Jess” Edgerton caught my eye. “I am really bad at praying,” she begins in the evangelical magazine Relevant. (Yes, seriously, it’s called Relevant.) The ADDish Edgerton tries to give us some idea of what happens when she sits down and attempts to pray. A stray thought possesses her and she ends up repeating the word “bosom” and giggling. “And thus,” she writes “my well-intentioned time set aside for God turns into a narcissistic combination of farce and fiction.”
Edgerton offers reasons why prayer doesn’t work the way she wants it to but never considers that structure might be just the thing she needs. Rome and other more ritually-minded churches are often accused of promoting “rote prayer”; “meaningless repetition”; etc. But that seems to me not a very useful way of looking at a real problem.
Structure helps focus the mind and some minds really do need the focus. Memorizing and repeating a small number of prayers doesn’t preclude individual entreaties to the Almighty, but it might help us to forget ourselves for a few moments and focus on something outside and greater than ourselves, no? I mean, it’s worth a shot.