I love rituals.
A few months ago I read Jen Hatmaker’s fabulous book “7”. If you haven’t read it – it is a must read. I will do a review on that soon. In this book, Jen refers to a book that she read and recommends by Macrina Wiederkehr, called Seven Sacred Pauses.
“Seven Sacred Pauses: Living Mindfully through the Hours of the Day is a meditative work on the seven monastic hours of the day. You are invited to become a pilgrim of the hours. To facilitate your daily pilgrimage I focus on the special theme of each hour. You are encouraged to pause, and breathe in the spirit of the hour, when possible. This book is designed to draw you into the practice of contemplative listening to the moments of each hour.”
The idea is that you pause 7 times throughout the day and mindfully connect with God (takes only a few minutes) . Before coming across this beautiful practice, I had the best intentions of connecting with God in my everydayness but for the most part I didn’t, “I just don’t have the time to stop”. What’s lovely about these pauses is that they are so beautifully written and gentle that it feels like I am being refueled, gearing me up for the next few hours before I pause again.
For me the best way to make this work was scheduling the time to do it, so like Jen Hatmaker, I set alarms on my phone. The first one is part of my morning prayer, then I set the alarm to go off at 10am, 12pm, 3pm and 5.30pm. The evening one I do before I go to sleep. To be honest I have yet to successfully do the midnight hour one. My hubby just lets me get by with setting the alarm for 5am each morning. It would tip him over the edge if I said that at midnight an alarm is going to go off so I can intercede for others. Even if that “other” was him, it wouldn’t wash. However, if I happen to be laying awake at any time of the night or any time when I should be sleeping, I do try to do it.
I typed out the pauses so that they would appear in my “notes” on my phone, and then when I am out or at the office, I sit quietly reading them and in my head pray. It really is something you can do anywhere, anytime.
So here you go. Here are the pauses. Allow yourself the time to do them. I would love to hear how you find them. For me it has finally given me the answer to actually connecting with God throughout my whole day and I just love it.
At the end of each one are some readings. Rather than make this blog too wordy, head over to https://www.youversion.com/ to download their bible app if you haven’t already got it. The best way to read the bible in whatever version suits your style.
The night watch
My eyes are awake before each watch of the night, that I may meditate on your promise. (Ps 119:148)
Also called vigils, this pause is around midnight.
“Like Jesus, keeping watch the night before he died, I keep vigil with those who wait alone”. This is a deep, even dark prayer of waiting and interceding, keeping vigil with Christ who never sleeps and guards us in our darkest hours (Isa 40:28)
The night watch advocates for others in a dark night of the soul: the suffering, abandoned, oppressed, lonely. Perhaps some night when you get up to pray, something will turn over in someone’s heart and find its voice all because of your small prayer.
Although there are beautiful prayers and psalms to use, this pause is also powerful silent, a simple, quiet connection with Jesus, staying awake together to shoulder the suffering that plagues this planet and our hearts.
“For God alone my soul waits in silence” (Ps 62:1)
Readings : Psalm 42, 63, 119:145-152
The awakening hour
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love; so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Psalm 90:14
At dawn it’s time to begin our day in glory, remembering God’s goodness. Even after the darkest night, the sun will rise. The awakening hour includes thankfulness for a new day, a fresh slate. It’s the moment to pray for resurection: what needs to arise in us today? Do we need to awaken joy? Forgiveness? Should we pray for the resurrection of love in our hearts for our spouse or children? Ask for a dawning in our own soul: “even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous. (Ps 112:4)
We enter a new day where our lives can becoming a living praise. Our desire to live this day well, for Jesus’ glory, is an offering. After the night watch this moment celebrates God’s intervention, His redemption. We never have to look far to see what He has repaired and whom He has transformed. Night vigils are for waiting and interceding; the Awakening Hour is for praising and celebrating. “This day of yours, Jesus. Awaken love in my heart so that I am a vessel of light today”
Readings : Psalm 19, 95, 147
The Blessing Hour
Let your loveliness shine on us, and bless the work our of hands. Psalm 90:17
This mid-morning pause has two emphases: the first is mindfulness of the Spirit’s abiding presence. It was the middle of the morning when the Holy Spirit came upon the awaiting disciples with gifts of courage for birthing a church (Acts 2:15). For this reason the early church commemorated the coming of the Spirit during the mid morning hour of Terse or “third hour” a fixed time of prayer in almost all Christian liturgies.
At this time the opportunities are still endless, making it the perfect time to invite the Spirit to stir our souls. This pause can redirect our morning trajectory from “efficient” to “inspired”. We invite the Holy Spirit deeply in before the day gets away from us.
Second, the Blessing Hour is about the sacredness of our hands and work, whatever our work looks like. We ask the Spirit to bless us with creativity, composure, inspiration, love. Kahlil Gibran said “work is love made visible”. What if we approached our work as an opportunity to show love? To our co-workers, those we serve, our children, to our students … visible love is possible if we work mindfully, as carriers of the sweet Spirit of Christ.
Readings : Psalm 67, 84, 121
The Hour of Illumination
You are the salt of the earth … you are the light of the world (Matt 5:13-14)
At midday, the brightest moment of the day, we honour the hour when Jesus embraced the cross (Matt 27:45). Like Him we recommit to giving our lives away. We follow His leadership in servant hood, practicing peace in a world of violence and vowing to love this world like Jesus did. In the spirit of the hour, we pledge to shine brightly, becoming hope to the hopeless and light in the darkness.
During the Hour of Illumination, we ask Jesus to send light into our hearts so intensely that they break wide open, so we can make the decisions that lead to peace – from death to life, deception to truth, despair to hope, hate to love. We self inspect our hearts for violence we are choosing to harbour toward ourselves, spouses or family members, coworkers, community, those who are different, toward any part of creation. We ask God’s love to illuminate the parts of our souls darkened with bitterness or anger or unforgiveness or apathy.
By all means enjoy this pause outside with your face turned toward the sun. We pray to be sons and daughters of the light, bringing joy to a dark world. We pray against the darkness that consumes and steals and ruins. We offer our hands and words as agents of change and justice. Like Gandhi said, “be the change you hope to see in the world”. This midday prayer is our pledge to pour out our lives, just like Jesus did at great cost.
Readings : Psalm 24, 33, 34
The Wisdom Hour
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21)
At mid afternoon the Wisdom Hour embraces the themes of surrender, forgiveness and wisdom, and the impermanence of this life, including ageing, maturing and death. It is the hour Jesus died and gave up His spirit (Mark 15:34). This prayer acknowledges all things are passing, not in a macabre way but in the spirit of wisdom which knows this life is temporary, and we should live like we believed that. This hour is the prayer for wisdom to help us live like we were dying, which we are. Imagine the fearlessness we’d embrace with this understanding! Imagine the risks we would take, the love we would share, the forgiveness we would not withhold, the dreams we would chase. Envision the bitterness we would release, the hang ups we would let go of, the beauty we would create.
With evening approaching, we pray for perspective on this short, fleeting day, this short fleeting life and accordingly, we hold out forgiveness, release our grudges and offer our gifts to the world, understanding we have only a few years to share them or they will be wasted.
Readings : Psalm 71, 90, 138
The Twilight Hour
Also called vespers, this is the much loved evening prayer, prayed for centuries at the end of the work day as dusk approaches. The main themes are gratitude and serenity as the evening lamps are lit. We invite God’s peace as we leave work and transition into dinner, family, home, rest. Training our minds towards tranquilly we ask: what is the greatest blessing of this day? What one accomplishment can I smile over? What is undone I can gently lay down until tomorrow? Is there anyone I need to make peace with? The Twilight Hour is for exhaling, calming our minds and transitioning into evening.
A major theme of vespers is gratitude. No matter the chaos of the day, if you search out reasons to be grateful, you may be amazed to discover that your gratitude room is overflowing. We practice being thankful for the gifts of the day, the loveliness of the season we are in. Even with disorder at this hour, we say “thank you” for employment, for children and home, for our gifts. We say thank you for tomorrow, a perfect landing spot for unfinished tasks. We say thank you for hands to labour and love with and ask for grace for the work of the approaching evening.
Readings : Psalm 34, 139, 145
The great silence
By day the Lord directs his love, at night His song is with me – a prayer to the God of my life. Psalm 42:8
This prayer concludes the day. Also called compline, from the Latin word for completion, it begins with gentle evaluation of the day. The focus is on awareness and we include not just weaknesses but the strengths and accomplishments of the day. The great silence teaches us to be healthy sinners, living neither in denial of our sin or despair because of it. God reminds us we are loved sinners. We learn to live with more integrity and obedience than the day before, as together in prayer we examine the day.
The second theme is darkness – protection from some forms and acceptance of other forms. We ask the Spirit to guard us against our enemy, protecting our zeal and innocence in Christ. We pray our children are sheltered under God’s wings. As sin is a darkness that envelops from within, we confess and repent from the tentacles that bind us. We intervene for those seized by darkness: suffering, sickness, death, disease. We pray for our brothers and sisters who need our intervention desperately.
On the other hand we welcome the soft darkness that is exquisitely beautiful and healing. God dims the lights on our weary bodies, making the way for sleep, allowing us to see the stars. There is a beauty to the darkness, the natural rhythm of the earth that invites us to be still and rest. It is time to let go of the day and enter the Great Silence.
Readings : Psalm 23, 91, 134