Saturday, January 23, 2021

The shape of our devotional lives. . .

Every quarter I put out the latest edition of Portals of Prayer, the devotional booklet published by Concordia.  Most of the time the copies disappear rather quickly.  They are a good and reliable, albeit brief, devotional resource.  They are easy to read.  I have no qualms about putting them into the hands of my people.  But I am anxious about the prospect of this being the sum total of the devotional lives of my people.  It is not because this resource is not good, it is good.  It is just not complete or as full as the devotional life could and should be.

COVID 19 left so many folks on their own.  Some were either locked out or deferred to their fears to stay away from the Divine Service over the many months of 2020.  Most parishes, like mine, tried to provide some sort of resources online to fill in the gap.  These ranged from the full fledged Divine Service videoed for all the world to see to weekly or even daily devotional videos from the pastors and other parish staff.  Everything considered, it was an emergency time and we provided emergency resources to fill in the gaps.  Some were very good, some were fine, and others only revealed how hard it is to become a media sensation at the drop of a hat.

I hope we have learned some lessons from all of this.  I hope and pray that we have learned how important individual and family devotional time is.  I hope and pray that we have discovered that a good resource, like Portals of Prayer, should not end up being the sum total of our devotional time.  Yes, we are busy.  Yes, we have the technology to rely on others.  But that is not the best practice for something that has proven to be a very important part of our daily lives.  We need the discipline and the rhythm of a familiar routine -- a format and a plan.

While The Treasury produced by CPH is a credible devotional resource, it is also large, heavy, and more complicated than it needs to be.  The app version is easier but I am suspicious of dependence upon technology alone.  There are many other resources available (from Herb Lindemann's Daily Office to ALPB's For All the Saints).  Or, there is the most basic resource.  The hymnal.  Lutheran Service Book offers two forms for morning prayer -- Matins and, well, Morning Prayer.  The same for evening prayer.  Plus Compline.  And the Suffrages (now called Responsive Prayer).  Pick one or two and use them daily.  Wear them like comfortable shoes.  Memorize them and still follow along in the book.  Sing the hymns appointed.  Follow a lectionary (there is a perfectly suitable daily lectionary in LSB).  Just do it.

Do not allow yourself to become dependent upon social media to provide for your devotional life and do not let yourself be satisfied with the short couple of paragraphs in Portals of Prayer.  Mix them together.  Let the daily devotional from Portals become part of your daily routine with Matins or Morning Prayer and Vespers or Evening Prayer.  Just do it.  Learn from the pandemic what not to be without.  It just might be one of the best lessons of 2020.

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