As a child, my impression was that a clergyperson’s work was confined to celebrating Eucharist on Sunday mornings and spending time in silence throughout the week in prayer and meditation.
Forty years later, graduation from an Episcopal seminary and a fourteen-year journey in active ordained ministry has completely changed this impression. Without a doubt, I can say that the life of a priest can be complicated and hectic, leaving at times no room for meditation or silence.
When I served in the Dominican Republic as Director of the Diocesan Camp and Conference Center, Primary Priest of three congregations and Rector of an Episcopal School, I was convinced — as a goal oriented person — that I was living my apostleship to the fullest. Just like Lazarus’ sister Martha, I was very busy “Doing God’s Work.” However, I thank God for good mentors and spiritual directors who helped me see the need for nurturing my discipleship and relationship with God if I was going to be about “my Father’s business.” Both discipleship and apostleship are significant and essential in our spiritual journey.
Needless to say, I surely read the Scriptures and other resources to prepare Bible studies or sermons. I attended retreats and said a prayer each day. But I reached a point where these things were not enough for me to grow and mature as a Christian. I realized I was losing my first love. In fact, the passion for prayer and meditation I experienced as a youth and young adult while involved in planning and executing spiritual gatherings for our diocesan ministry with young people started to dwindle. I became more concerned about the state of the buildings, budgets or programmatic work.
Therefore, a lesson I am very glad I learned early in my ministry is that one must be intentional about prayer, spirituality, and spiritual practices. Candidly, it requires discipline and awareness to create sacred spaces to connect with God and self, from which to be sent out into the world to serve God’s mission of restoration and reconciliation as disciples and apostles of Jesus.
This intentionality led me to create what I call sacred spaces in my home and workplace. These sacred spaces can be as little as a special corner adorned with icons or candles to remind me of the transcendent presence and love of God in my life and my work as a minister. These symbols are a constant reminder of who I am and most important whose I am. They remind me of my first love and the reason I engage in the day-to-day affairs of our beloved institutional church and the proclamation of the Gospel to all people. To be more concise, a rule of life I honor is to start the day lighting a candle in the designated sacred space, saying a prayer in silence or out loud, offering my day to God and inviting Her to be at the center of my heart, soul and mind.
A sacred space is not necessarily physical. When meetings and travels keep me away from home or the office, I remember that a sacred space is anywhere God is invited to be at the center. It is a space where we — children of God, called to be disciples and apostles — thrive in creativity, service, and spiritual awareness.
The beauty of being intentional about prayer practice is that once it becomes part of what we do, it soon becomes part of who we are. Like any relationship in which we invest time and energy, the practice of prayer allows us to see and connect with God at levels we never imagined or expected.
In my physical sacred space at the office, I have a Madonna and Child, a sculpture purchased in Mexico. The sculpture inspires me to meditate on God’s nurturing nature and Mary’s obedience to God’s will in her life. I use different resources to support that special moment of prayer. For the past year and a half, I have been using the same prayer, maybe because I need to be relentlessly reminded of being mindful of the importance of my wellness and wholeness as a servant of Christ. I re-typed and framed this prayer, which I consider a priceless gift packaged in each edition of the Forward Day by Day booklet. This particular prayer, which I am sharing below, feels new and fresh each day. I offer it to my friends, family, and community, encouraging them to use it during their personal Lenten journey.
A Morning Resolve
I will try this day to live a simple, sincere and serene life, repelling promptly every thought of discontent, anxiety, discouragement, impurity, and self-seeking; cultivating cheerfulness, magnanimity, charity, and the habit of holy silence; exercising economy in expenditure, generosity in giving, carefulness in conversation, diligence in appointed service, fidelity to every trust, and a childlike faith in God.
In particular, I will try to be faithful in those habits of prayer, work, study, physical exercise, eating, and sleep, which I believe the Holy Spirit has shown me to be right.
And as I cannot in my own strength do this, nor even with a hope of success attempt it, I look to thee, O Lord God my Father, in Jesus my Savior, and ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
May God bless us with a burning desire to seek God’s presence and abide in Her.