The following is the first of several reflections from my experience with Robert Benson’s book, Living Prayer. This is a way of sharing a journey in progress towards a life where prayer is not merely an item on a spiritual to-do list, but rather a living, breathing essence of who I am becoming. These reflections, I hope, will encourage, stir, and rouse you in that direction as well. If you haven’t read the book, please do as it can (and I hope will if you let it) draw you towards a lifestyle where prayer is at the center as a lived and formative experience. This week’s reflection is from the first chapter, “The General Dance”
The General Dance
To what beat does your life march? Is there a rhythm to your life that you are aware of? Sadly many wander through life paying little attention to themselves and the world around them. We are bombarded; it seems, with plenty of noise to keep us distracted while on our self-directed, self-absorbed journeys. In many ways this prevents us from knowing ourselves, and importantly, God. In the first Chapter of Living Prayer, Robert Benson reflects about the invitation to join the General Dance; that is, the discipline of regular prayer that has been handed down through the ages, through the Church…
…The question for us in this chapter revolves around whether we live a life in attention or not, a life in attention to God and to ourselves. The first day Benson opened the little blue prayer book given to him by his father, he stumbled onto this: “Only he who obeys a rhythm superior to his own is free.” Lamenting out of a time when he paid little attention to anything, the invitation in this quote somehow began stirring in him a desire to make the journey into the ancient practices of prayer that had for so long shaped the Church. Reading from the saints, immersing in the scriptures, praying the psalms, living the silence and the contemplation have all led him to desire “…a life lived in attention…a life in which prayer has woven itself into the very fabric of my life, a life in which prayer has become a constant, as regular as breathing out and breathing in.” It is his experience with this rhythm superior to his own that continually calls and beckons him towards living prayer.
From the book…
“If we are to live lives that enable us to hear more clearly who we are, then we will have to learn to move to a rhythm that is superior to the ones we have fashioned for ourselves, or the ones a consumer society has foisted upon us. We will have to discover the rhythms of prayer and life that can he found in the steps of the Ancient Dance of the Ancient of Days: the liturgy, the Eucharist, the calendar and the mass, the prayers of confession and intersession and recollection and contemplation, the habits of reading and retreat and working with our hands, the practices of hospitality and forgiveness and being with the poor”
Whose rhythm is it that our lives are moving to?