As I began to think about this week’s meditation (on Tuesday) all I could think about was being tired. I have reason to be tired, and it is not alarming or worrisome. But it is annoying and boring, and usually interferes with my oh-so-important plans. Plans such as Thinking Deep Thoughts for the weekly meditation and Sunday’s sermon. Plans such as having an inspiring prayer time during which these Deep Thoughts will bubble up from the depths, in moments of Profound Spiritual Peace and one-ness with God.
OK, to be honest, those moments of Profound Spiritual Peace and one-ness with God are rare in my prayer life. But praying when I am tired is especially challenging, and Thinking Deep Thoughts is certainly not going to happen. Most things we attempt to do are harder when we are tired, and I find prayer to be no exception to this experience. Resting in God’s embrace, ironically, is easier for me when I am not in desperate need for rest.
This is when I am most grateful for prayers written by somebody else, such as those that we have in the Book of Common Prayer and the Psalms. Praying with words written by someone else removes any pressure that if I cannot Think Deep Thoughts, for whatever reason, or if I am not having a moment of Profound Spiritual Peace, then I am somehow not being “spiritual” enough. On the other hand, written words keep me accountable for my prayer life, even when I am tired. They hold me to something – some structure, some carved-out time in my day, for prayer. “Dear God get me through this day” can certainly count as a prayer, but written words get me beyond that to something that is … well … not about me. The prayers of the Book of Common Prayer are especially helpful to me when I don’t have much energy. The prayers of the Daily Offices (Morning Prayer, Noonday Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline) take us through all of the principal kinds of prayer – adoration, praise, thanksgiving, penitence, oblation, intercession, and petition. This removes the burden of wondering if I've “covered everything.”
When I am tired, if all I can do is mutter words written by somebody else, at least I am showing up for prayer time, for God. And that is “spiritual” enough. Written prayer may or may not help YOU to pray faithfully when you are tired. The invitation here is to put some thought into what does help you to pray each day. What helps you to hold fast to a way of prayer through times when you are busy, tired, overwhelmed, or even having so much fun doing whatever it is you are doing that prayer seems hard to stick with? In those times when prayer feels hard, whatever gets you to show up for prayer time is plenty “spiritual” enough. Prayer is not a test to see who can have the most impressive discipline. Rather, prayer is an opportunity for grace, for transformation, for being faithful in your relationship with God even when the thought of putting energy into a relationship is too much to deal with. What an amazing gift!