Monday, May 12, 2008

3 times a day -- good for our spirit

I'm doing a study of early Christian literature ... some fascinating stuff. One of the more important documents is the Didache, which purports to be the "teachings of the 12 apostles"...basically an early Christian handbook. Many scholars place the text to sometime in the first century.

The early chapters contrast the ways of life and death, and then the book moves into a description of early worship...and that's my interest for this post. The early christian audience of the Didache was encouraged to fast two days out of the week (Wednesday and Friday) and to pray the Lord's prayer three times a day. Here it is in a full quotation of Chapter 8 (from the Roberts-Donaldson translation):

But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second and fifth day of the week. Rather, fast on the fourth day and the Preparation (Friday). Do not pray like the hypocrites, but rather as the Lord commanded in His Gospel, like this:

"Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily (needful) bread, and forgive us our debt as we also forgive our debtors. And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (or, evil); for Thine is the power and the glory for ever."

Pray this three times each day.

Now the fasting part is pretty tough though certainly doable. Wesley used to fast from the evening meal of Thursday to mid-afternoon Friday. According to the Coptic church website, Egyptian Coptic Christians fast for 210 days a year.

Even so, I'd like us to look at that second piece...praying the Lord's Prayer three times a day. That's it. A simple little prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray. Three times a day. Is it possible that Christians could do even that? Many American Christians hardly ever lend prayer a thought save at mealtimes and when led to pray in church. What would it do to our spiritual lives if we made it a baseline committment between ourselves and God to pray the Lord's prayer three times a day .... not mechanistically as though it were some incantation to attain spiritual power. But praying it thoughtfully, slowly, applying the general statements of the prayer to the particular situations of our lives.

Perhaps some of us will give it a try ....

Soli Deo Gloria