I recently read a book titled You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K. A. Smith. When I picked it up, I expected the author to talk about the importance of changing our earthly desires into Christ-like ones. What I did not expect was how he said to go about it. He turned to an old, misunderstood word to explain where he had found profound, desire-shifting power: liturgy.
Now, if you’re like me, reading that word is like eating a steamed brussel sprout – just doesn’t seem like anything you’d want on your plate. But by the end of the book, Smith won me over. While “liturgy” may bring to mind stiff-necked, ceremonial drudgery, at a base level, the word simply means a spiritual habit. While the world is constantly banking habits into us (pick up you phone much?), how many are we specifically forming to remind us of gospel truth? To help us remember who we are and how we’re called to live? To “set [our] minds on things that are above”? (Colossians 3:2)
Another author, Douglas McKelvey, has endeavored to bring liturgy into the modern world through prayer. His work, Every Moment Holy, contains a wealth of poetic prayers to be recited in a variety of daily situations, from drinking your morning coffee, to clocking in at work, to changing diapers. These are meant to draw our hearts and minds upward in every possible circumstance and, hopefully, to make it more and more natural to process every moment through a gospel lens.
As an example, and one that I’m quite sure everyone can relate to right now, I give you, “A Liturgy for Those Flooded by Too Much Information.” Find a quiet place and time to breath this in and back out to God. Maybe before you check the headlines in the morning…
In a world so wired and interconnected,
our anxious hearts are pummeled by
an endless barrage of troubling news.
We are daily aware of more grief, O Lord,
than we can rightly consider,
of more suffering and scandal
than we can respond to, of more
hostility, hatred, horror, and injustice
than we can engage with compassion.
But you, O Jesus, are not disquieted
by such news of cruelty and terror and war.
You are neither anxious nor overwhelmed.
You carried the full weight of the suffering
of a broken world when you hung upon
the cross, and you carry it still.
When the cacophony of universal distress
unsettles us, remind us that we are but small
and finite creatures, never designed to carry
the vast abstractions of great burdens,
for our arms are too short and our strength
is too small. Justice and mercy, healing and
redemption, are your great labors.
And yes, it is your good pleasure to accomplish
such works through your people,
but you have never asked any one of us
to undertake more than your grace
will enable us to fulfill.
Guard us then from shutting down our empathy
or walling off our hearts because of the glut of
unactionable misery that floods our awareness.
You have many children in many places
around this globe.
Move each of our hearts
to compassionately respond to those needs
that intersect our actual lives, that in all places
your body might be actively addressing
the pain and brokenness of this world,
each of us liberated and empowered by
your Spirit to fulfill the small part
of your redemptive work assigned to us.
Give us discernment
in the face of troubling news reports.
Give us discernment
to know when to pray,
when to speak out,
when to act,
and when to simply
shut off our screens
and our devices,
and to sit quietly
in your presence,
casting the burdens of this world
upon the strong shoulders
of the one who
is able to bear them up.