I don’t always find it easy to pray. Often I’m over-tired, distracted, caught up in tasks, pressured by work, short on time, lacking the appetite for prayer or more strongly drawn to do something else. But I do pray daily – despite the fact that I often don’t want to and despite the fact that many times prayer can be boring and uninteresting. I pray daily because I’m committed to a number of rituals for prayer, the Office of the Church, lauds and vespers, the Eucharist and daily meditation.
And these rituals serve me well. They hold me, keep me steady and keep me praying regularly even when, many times, I don’t feel like praying. That’s the power of ritual. If I only prayed when I felt like it, I wouldn’t pray very regularly.
Ritual practice keeps us doing what we should be doing (praying, working, being at table with our families, being polite) even when our feelings aren’t always onside. We need to do certain things not because we always feel like doing them, but because it’s right to do them.
And this is true for many areas of our lives, not just for prayer. Take, for example, the social rituals of propriety and good manners that we lean on each day. Our heart isn’t always in the greetings or the expressions of love, appreciation and gratitude that we give to each other each day.
We greet each other, we say goodbye to each other, we express love for each other and we express gratitude to each other through a number of social formulae, ritual words: Good morning! Good to see you! Have a great day! Have a great evening! Sleep well! Nice meeting you! Nice to work with you! I love you! Thank you!
We say these things to each other daily, even though we have to admit that there are times, many times, when these expressions appear to be purely formal and seem not at all honest to how we are feeling at that time. Yet we say them, and they are true in that they express what lies in our hearts at a deeper level than our more momentary and ephemeral feelings of distraction, irritation, disappointment or anger.
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