I always begin my recitation of the Daily Office with this prayer taken from the Anglican Breviary, because it reminds me of the posture of attentiveness with which we are called to pray. Prayer is not supposed to be perfunctory or distracted or incidental. And yet, I have been known to rush through reading the psalms (and everything else) during the Daily Office, especially if I'm standing in a crowded train or bus struggling to turn pages and flip ribbons in that fumbling, one-handed manner without dropping the book or falling over a nearby commuter. As the bus jerks and jostles me, I am grateful for those days when I can take my time to savor the Word of God over a leisurely sipped cup of coffee. On busy days, there is probably little attention and devotion, and an abundance of wandering thoughts. Sometimes, all I can manage is to just get it done, so I can move on to the next thing.
Earlier this week, I was beginning my morning commute standing impatiently on the platform waiting for the train to come. Seated next to me was a transit employee in her fluorescent vest, who eyed my clerical collar and struck up a conversation. She asked if I was a priest and where my church was, and after I explained what the Episcopal Church was, she introduced herself as Leticia and requested that I keep her in my prayers. I offered to lay hands on her and pray with her right there, if she wished. She readily agreed and told me what she would like to pray for. So, we prayed amidst the morning hurly-burly in the background, and she thanked me profusely. And I thanked her. Leticia offered me an opportunity to pause. We had forced an asterisk into the day's script. We had created a moment for attention and devotion and to thrust our wandering thoughts aside. It was wonderful. I wonder if our inability to pause is a function of habit, and whether more moments for intentional reflection and retreat from the maelstrom might be available to us if we simply learned to pay closer attention to the opportunities already available to us in regular unfolding of our days. Maybe that little asterisk is an open space to let the Holy Spirit in and speak to us.