by Anna Helzer
I REALLY love structure. This will not surprise anyone who knows me. My planner is one of my most valuable possessions, and I love having a daily routine. Over winter break, I realized that I would miss the structure of my daily life as a “normal” college student when I transitioned into student teaching. I started looking for ways to bring parts of my beloved old structures into my new daily structure as a student teacher.
So, being a good representative of whatever generation I am as a 21-year-old (young millennial? Gen Z? No one can decide), I downloaded an app! The Presbyterian Church’s Daily Prayer app to be exact, which includes all the same readings, psalms, and prayer structures that The Lutheran Center uses in our daily morning prayer services. My New Year’s resolution was to pray the daily morning and evening prayers each day. This would create a routine for myself, help connect me with The Lutheran Center community and all the people who use this prayer structure, and provide a scheduled time each day for me to connect directly with God.
Why is this structure so helpful for me and others? First, the structure of daily prayer (and also weekly/annual liturgy) connects us with people all over the world who join with us and all the saints in praising God. When I whisper the words of the Canticle of Zechariah at my kitchen table, I’m joining in the prayer of The Lutheran Center community across campus but also with all others who are praying. The framework of our worship guides us into a shared prayer with the others following that particular structure as well as the communion of saints across time and space. It widens our perspective from our own lives to those of our neighbors, next door and across the world, and helps us to see the diversity of thanksgivings and needs in the world around us.
Second, when we use a structure such as a daily prayer or a devotional, we practice holding space for holiness in our daily lives. Carving out a certain amount of time and holding ourselves accountable for sticking to this discipline helps us create a space in which we expect to connect with God. As we move into the Lenten season, many people turn to devotionals as a structure. This year’s Lutheran Center Lenten Devotional is centered around the theme “Without Ceasing” and was designed by our pastoral intern, Arin. It uses the layout of the Divine Office — a schedule of daily prayers — to provide a framework of verses of biblical canticles by Mary, Zechariah, and others. The Divine Office prayers, and other structures, provide this space for holiness and connection. We join in structured prayer and worship to remind ourselves who we are — and who God is.
And third, holding space for prayer in this structure may spread into prayer without ceasing. Like many New Year’s resolutions, my resolution has wavered over the last month and I’m often inconsistent in doing the full daily prayer. But it has been a gift to have it available to me, to know that I join with my community and others when I pause for reflection, and to think of things or people to add to my thanks or prayers of intercession as I move throughout my new daily routines. I look forward to joining with the larger Lutheran Center community in the structure of our Lenten devotional over the next few months to get a small foretaste of the prayer without ceasing in the Kingdom of God.