I just watched Rob Bell’s Nooma video on sitting shiva, on Maggy’s advice, and I am thinking again about Winner’s writing on mourning. I have been profoundly impacted with this concept not just in death and the grieving process but also in life and the ongoing occurrence that we all experience with significant loss (vocation, identity, friendships, relationships, community). Sitting shiva for most of us is not something we are very good at. Actually many of us don’t have meaningful enough relationships in our lives that when loss occurs there are those who will sit shiva with us. Why is that? Although their motives may not have been always right Job had a few friends who were willing to sit with him during his time of loss. What is our problem?
Winner speaks to prayer and how Jewish prayer is essentially liturgical and ordered. This does not mean that one can not pray their own prayers but that the essence or skeleton of prayer is liturgy. For most evangelicals the idea of prayer being liturgical seems dull and perhaps even dangerous (repeating the same thing over and over again can lose its meaning). Add to this the often quoted comments of the Apostle Paul to pray without ceasing, or in everything give thanks and our sense of prayer as a spontaneous outpouring from our hearts becomes primary.
But, as Winner points out, Jesus did teach his disciples to pray a liturgy. I think Winner is on to something with this. She says, "I have sometimes put aside my prayer book for days and weeks on end, and I find, at the end of those days and weeks on end, that I have lapsed into narcissism" (page 60). I sense a trueness to this in my own life.
We should not only celebrate and promote the spontaneity of prayerful conversation with God in all circumstances but also root such in the discipline of a biblical liturgy of prayer. Praying the Psalms and The Disciples Prayer or other prayers in scripture as our prayer book will root us in a theology of prayer and keep us from slipping into self oriented requests or perhaps even lapsing from this important practice all together.