A colleague of mine recommended a book recently, which was so much more than ink and a few pages. It's such a minister thing to say, a temptation really, to claim that you "got something from a book." But sometimes that's true.
I have been reading Sleeping With Bread, which is written by Dennis Linn, Shelia Linn and Matthew Linn. It comes from an old story that dates back to the second World War, during the bombing raids all throughout Europe. Many children were left to starve, and a few were sent off to refugee camps where they received basic care. In these camps however, children could not sleep at night for fear that they would wake up with nothing to eat. Rightly so, the effects of the war were devestating. No one could be promised basic nourishment.
It then occurred to someone to reassure these children by giving them a loaf of bread to hold at their bedtime, so that they could go to bed with this in their hand and then wake up the next day. Through this they could receive encouragement and assurance that somehow, they would survive.
Prayer can have this effect on our lives. In some moments of our ministry we can feel like we are stuck in a refugee camp, wondering when and if we are ever going to get any kind of "food" for our starved souls again. Prayer is often something that we encourage our congregations to participate in, or that we praise in theory as a nice practice.
Prayer is more than a nice practice or a spiritual discipline. It's a direct communication to the Living God, calling us back to the source of all love and redemption. Sleeping With Bread encourages the simple practice of examen that St. Ignatius insisted upon... even if all of the other prayers were skipped!
It's very simple. We simply take a moment, sit down, and ask these two questions:
1. What am I most grateful for in this day, month, time, season?
2. What am I least grateful for in this day, month, time, season?
It's an act of honesty and confrontation, and can be done in groups, alone, with screaming children, at the dinner table or in the office. It allows us to reconnect with God, but also to start being more realistic about our lives. For those of us who always see thunderclouds, we are finding ways to be grateful. For those of us who are addicted to the sunlight, we learn the gift of confrontation.
The Holy Spirit has a penchant for comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. Wherever we are, that Spirit will find us. Let us take some time for prayer.