RISK is something of a passion, especially when it involves my physical body. My willingness to subject myself to pain dramatically increases when there is a level of uncomfortable danger inherent within the activity. Looking back, I would have never equated the establishing of a morning rhythm devoted to prayer as a risky endeavor particularly because I view its danger rating as inconsequential.
I’ve always found fasting laborious, mentally challenging, and obsessively difficult. Hunger consumed all capacity to think, causing brain function to be less enlightened or more exhausted. And my past attempts to follow a biblical reading plan inevitably ended in some form of shame, guilt, and self-condemnation as I would lie to myself through zombie pages and unread days.
Perhaps this sounds bleak, especially when you realize that I hold the title of Co-Leader of a small, non-denominational river church just outside of Chicago. Comparison told me that pastoral staffs seamlessly string together multiple water-only fasts while digesting copious amounts of scripture… on the daily. Four years into this job, and I was still unable (unwilling) to make the commitment to some type of sacrifice.
Mornings are my thing and 4:30 am alarms are ordinary. Subsequently, the near random decision to walk 450 ft. to our church at 5:30a would cost me very little. Piously, I announced to the staff that I would be hosting a morning prayer hour on weekdays for the month of May. That whispered voice of comparison continued to tell me that leaders are forerunners, flag bearers, and risk takers. In a subtle nod to my nature, I embarked on the riskless adventure of establishing a rhythmic nature to prayer.
Initially, the mornings struggled to find their cadence. Having no predictable patterns by which I prayed, an hour that I directed meandered amongst many diverse approaches. Some in attendance came armed with prayer lists that were read as if on a page of incantations. Others brought their instruments even though my laptop always provided the soundtrack for the morning. Admittedly, I hadn’t thought out this new morning routine; it evolved because I needed a challenge in life, and my pastoral guilt felt prayer necessary on some internal level. It was a casual risk I was willing to grab even if it lacked all elements of danger. I didn’t serve coffee, the lights were left off, there was no attendance sheet, nor had a liturgy emerged. I was determined to spend my mornings in an effort to see what agenda-less prayer might create.
There is no formation without repetition. Early within this lifecycle, that phrase fastened to my spirit and rested in my core. Over the days and weeks, a trail began to clear before me and with it the realization that there had to be a level of repetition in order to create some type of lasting legacy. Within my quest for repetition, formation had taken root. My discipline in May had morphed into desire as summer transitioned to fall. This simple act, rote in nature, of sacrificing sixty minutes to the presence of the Divine had left acutely focused attention where there had previously been disappointment.
Upon this level, I realized the cost of my adventure. My repetition created formation which led to attention that washed over to pure adoration of the One. My spirit, now forever changed, had wagered my habits against the power of heaven. These same habits now laid on the floor around me in critical danger of never being used again.
I am sitting eight months into my riskless journey, and I have found myself engulfed by the practice of a daily rhythm that emanates from prayer. My journey is uniquely mine, but the destination is familiar to many. Find your cadence by risking your habits that hold back the formation of your Divine adoration.
Photo by Nathan Dumlao