From DavidD (seen in its original context here): 

Playing is learning, for adults as well as children. This is why I never worry when prayer becomes dry in Church. It is still good for me to “play” Church until my heart returns. After all we baptize our children long before they can know what it is we are doing. The learning comes AFTER the doing. And what a wonderful thing to watch them do!

I recently had a friend tell me it was obvious that I respect religious traditions, and that’s true. I love tradition, in both practice and as a matter of purely anthropological interest.

But lately I’ve come to realize that part of what makes tradition so appealing to me is its inherent link to ritual, and the link of ritual to repetition.

I’m a person who has had a lot of doubts through the years, but I have found in the last couple of years that a lot of ritual repetition can be quite faith affirming. The former Evangelical in me wants to think that doing the same thing over and over is just rote, vain repetitions done to feel religious, but I cannot deny that after 150 Jesus prayers in times of doubt, my doubts dissolve. I learn, and affirm, by doing.

There is a danger of thinking that the devotions of the Church are magical (just like many Evangelicals are guilty of thinking that Bible reading will fix their problems instantaneously), and those practices should never be separated from the teachings of the Savior and the Apostles by way of the scriptures and apostolic teachings of the Church (after all, they aren’t mantras), but they are useful in beating back both doubts and demons. When I find myself unable to pray, I can always begin with “Our Father, Who art in Heaven…,” and follow with “Oh Heavenly King, Oh Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, who is in all places and fillest all things, treasury of good things and giver of life, come and abide with us and cleanse us from every stain, and save our souls, oh gracious Lord.”

And if I am still unable to pray (and I admit, there are still days when this is true), I end with, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!” 

(That has probably been the single most repeated prayer in my entire Christian life, even when I eschewed things like liturgy, repetition and planned devotions. This is the closest thing I prayed to a sinner’s prayer in my own Damascus Road experience.)

When in the context of religious practice, I don’t want to stray too far into the thinking that practice makes perfect lest I fall into rote practice, but practice is part of perseverance. And that is why — even when things get dry, to borrow from David — I keep at it.

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