Twenty years ago, I was young, single, and a new minister with a two-bedroom apartment. I had space to spare, so I set aside my loft area for prayer. It was a peaceful place with no furniture except a small table and a pillow where I could sit. There was a lovely view of my neighborhood; I was happy to have a quiet place to pray.
I created my prayer room with good intentions, but didn’t use it regularly. Eventually it made me feel more guilty than inspired. I rearranged; it went away.
Ten years ago, when I was married and a young mother, there was no hope of setting aside a room. Every single space was needed for the daily living of a family of four!
Instead I prayed in a chair in a corner of my study. That’s where I sat when I prayed about leaving my former denomination. That’s where I learned to trust that God would guide me forward, even when I didn’t know the path. My prayer was effective – despite the fact that most of the time, the chair was just another part of our ordinary life.
Then I became an Episcopalian. I finally had a faith that included visible space for prayer. I found an old prie-dieu on Craigslist and put it in my home office. That’s where I prayed the prayer that led to the founding of Plainsong Farm. And then, because we needed to move to bring the farm to life, we moved.
We’ve lived in our current house for more two years. I hope to stay here for the rest of my days. But I still don’t quite have my space set aside for prayer. Most mornings my prayer happens in an ordinary chair in my living room. My prie-dieu has no home. My old prayer chair sits in the sunroom. I always feel like something is missing from my space. I don’t quite know what to create in a house that still feels “new.”
Before we started Grow Christians, I was a regular reader of Like Mother, Like Daughter. It’s a Roman Catholic blog focused on integrating life and liturgy. The main blogger, Leila Lawler, is also the co-author of a book called The Little Oratory: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying in the Home.
It’s a great book, with lots of encouragement for fitting prayer into the daily life of a family. My copy has several dog-ears in it. The purpose of the book is set out plainly:
With this book, we are interested in reviving the little oratory…–prayer table, home altar, or icon corner–in the home. It’s an almost lost tradition that can be a simple and beautiful bridge between these two places–home and church–for the sake of the family’s life of faith, and consequently for this whole project which is the life of the Christian.
Although it’s definitely written for Roman Catholics, as an Anglican I found it useful and helpful. But reading it did not get me to make a little oratory – at least, not yet.
But time moves on and priorities change. I believe that in 2017 I will need a place to focus my prayer life. I will need a candle or two, an icon or a statue. I will need some space in my home where, when I simply look at it, I will remember what human life – my life – is for.
When I first began thinking about creating a little oratory, I thought about it as home faith formation for my children. Lately I have realized: I need it as home faith formation for me.
So my hope, this month, is to create one. I’m a little nervous to write this in public, but I have a feeling that some readers would be willing to share pictures or stories of what they have already done. I need all the help I can get! One great resource I’ve already found is this handout from Grow Christians author Emily Watkins over at Building Faith.
Do you have a space for prayer at home? Would you be willing to share an image with others? Send me a note and picture at nurya at plainsongfarm.com or via our Grow Christians Facebook page. I’d love to write a follow up post at the end of the month or sometime in February with my new space. For now I simply have a set of “Before” pictures – because I haven’t even figured out where my little oratory will go!
In my living room?
In the sunroom?
Or in my basement home office?
I will be praying about it, thinking about it, and working toward it. I look forward to sharing it when it is done.
Do you have space set aside for prayer at home? How did you create it?