My office is small and crowded, especially since the Geranium Farm's book warehouse is in here now, but I do have a little prayer desk -- the top of a wooden file box. On it: my Office Book and a Book of Common Prayer, a candle, a set of macrame prayer beads, a tiny "Adoration of the Magi" and three small icons: one of the Transfiguration and two of the Virgin and Child, because I can't decide which one I love the most.
The morning routine is always the same: light the candle, turn on the computer, open the book and begin. The people in the icons, who are not really in this world -- they live in the next one -- watch me with interest. They are good watchers: that is why their eyes are large. They don't say much, which is why their mouths aren't very big. My favorite Mary has one ear peeking out from behind her veil: she's a good listener. The candle sits in front of her, casting a golden light across her face. I doubt if she notices it, though: it is so light in her world that any light I might supply pales by comparison.
Sameness soothes me. It pushes graceful ancient buttons in my memory, opens familiar paths into me. It opens paths in the other direction, too, paths that lead out from me, too, from me right into the heart of God. I have an imagining of my prayer finding its mark there. I have an imagining of God expecting to hear from me, wondering where I am, perhaps, if I don't show up. I have an imagining of all of us, like a class of children in a school, sitting at our desks and answering the roll call: Here. Here. Present. Here. All of us here. All of us noticing when someone is missing, noticing the empty desk.
I turn to the computer when I am finished Morning Prayer and send out an email that says "Let us bless the Lord." "Thanks be to God" responses begin to filter in. Here. Here. Present. Here.
Spontaneous prayer you make up yourself is a major part of anybody's prayer life. It is peculiarly you, and peculiar you is a good thing. A great advantage of using prayers written in a book at least some of the time, though, is that you get a sense of the community of people who are using the same words you are using. All over the world, people awaken to the same words to which I awaken. They, too, read from Revelation and shook their heads this morning, wondering for the thousandth times how this thing survived the selection process when they chose which books would be in the Bible. I doubt if any of us would have chosen Revelation 2:8-17 as an uplifting part of our morning prayer experience. But there it is and there we are, united for a moment in something else that is very like what kids experience in school: that mystified communal huh? all students know well. It is as if we were all in the same class, all together. And we are all together, too: those of us who are far and those who are near, the living and the dead, those known to us and those we will never meet.
The Lord be with you, all of you, we say, and we listen for a response. The candle flickers over the Virgin's face. The room is silent. But we feel the answer anyway: And also with you. And also with you. And also with you.