Reflection on Prayer and Spirituality
Fr Owain Mitchell
Our reflections over the recent months have presented us with many and varied strands which flow into, through and out of our prayer lives and our spirituality. Furthermore, we have only touched the tip of the iceberg. Sometimes we may feel overwhelmed by it all, and wonder how we can even begin to hold all of these things in tension.
This month, I wish to offer you one way of doing so – a Rule of Life. We reflected on this area some years ago, and a number of you said you found it helpful. I pray that others who have not yet encountered the idea of a Rule of Life may find this helpful.
The first, and perhaps most important thing to remember is that it is not a rule in the conventional sense. Rather it is more of a guide, an aide memoire, an encouragement from yourself, to yourself. A Rule of Life serves to help keep us on track, or when we let things slip, to bring us back to where we believe God is calling us. It is something to aim for, rather than to feel guilty about. Think of it, as a spiritual to do list.
Where to start?
Start small, and do a few things well, rather than trying to take on too much, and wearing yourselves down. You may wish to start drawing your own Rule from the Ten Commandments, The Summary of the Law, or The Lord’s Prayer, and reflect on how these shape the way you wish to live and use your time, skills and resources. For example, taking the Ten Commandments, you might begin by asking how you can ensure that The Lord your God is the only God in your life? Or how, if you make false idols of money, power and status, you can address this? The Summary of the Law offers two simple areas to work from, what do you want to do to express your love for God and to serve your neighbour?
Or you might begin with the Church of England’s Duties of Church Membership:
All baptised and confirmed members of the Church must play their full part within its life and witness. That you may fulfil this duty, we call upon you:
- To follow the example of Christ in home and daily life, and to bear personal witness to Him
- To be regular in private prayer day to day
- To read the bible carefully
- To come to Church every Sunday
- To receive Holy Communion faithfully and regularly
- To give personal service to Church, neighbours and community
- To give money for the work of the parish and diocese, and for the work of the Church at home and overseas
- To uphold the standard of marriage entrusted by Christ to His Church
- To care that children are brought up to love and serve the Lord
Do you struggle to find time to read the bible each day? What can you include in your own personal rule to develop this discipline? Could you make it part of your Rule to come to a midweek Mass when you cannot attend on a Sunday.
You may find it helpful to look at your life and spit it into main groupings – these may include some of the following -God, His Church, work, family life, leisure time and so forth.
Having established the main areas of your life you wish to focus on, simply put in those things you wish to make priorities in your life to grow in these areas.For example, if you have as one of your groupings, ‘Family’, how can you care better for your family? What are your weaknesses in this area, if you are spending too much time on ministry, or at work, make a conscious effort to reduce this, and spend time with the family. Or if you want to develop your prayer life, make it a priority to try to pray each day. The basic premise of developing a Rule is to help us to live well before God and alongside each other, how can we grow as Christians and as human beings? Again, start small and build over time.
I’ve included my own Rule of Life, which I revise annually below, to give you an example. This will not be right for you, we are all different, but it will give you an idea, a template of what your Rule could look like. If you would like to develop your own rule of life, and would like some help and support, please do get in touch.
RULE OF LIFE: REVISED JANUARY 2017
REMEMBER my Rule of life is something to aim for, not something to feel guilty about
- Morning Prayer; Evening Prayer; Compline said Daily
- Daily Eucharist where possible; Spiritual Communion when not
- Examination of Conscience each day at compline based on period of reflection on the Ten Commandments, Seven Deadly Sins and their Opposite Virtues
- See my Spiritual Director and make confession every 2-3 months
- Annual Retreat
- To give regularly to the Church and to charities
- Intercessions on Friday’s
- Litanies on Friday’s
- Spiritual Journal
- Seek to become a better disciple by growing in holiness
- To grow in faith, hope and love
- To become more mindful of my calling to be a wise and generous steward of God’s Creation
- To be open to new and different traditions and spirituality’s
- Preparations for Sunday’s Services and Sermon – PRIORITY
- Witness, Watchman, Weaver, Prophetic Ministry
- Teaching, through sermon, courses, monthly sheets
- Enable, equip and encourage Lay Ministry
- Plan, Do, Review
- Continue to encourage and enable discipleship
- Pray for those who would benefit from SD and develop their ministry in the group
- Be an example to those God has placed in my care
- 20 minutes of theological reading daily
- 20 minutes of reading on doctrine daily
- 20 minutes Bible Study daily
- Sermon preparation as additional
- Preparation for preaching, teaching etc.
- Time with Bel, a priority
- Healthy work/home life balance
- TOIL: Time Off In Lieu
- Take full holiday allowance
- Essentials only on a Saturday
- Housework and gardening
- To live and work to God’s praise and glory
Remember to keep your Rule simple and achievable; to review it annually; talk to others whom you trust, and who’s opinions you value, about your Rule, they will be able to support and advise you, and will pray alongside you. Most importantly, approach your Rule prayerfully, discerning who you are before God, and who it is He is calling you to be.