From ancient times, the church has gathered at set times to pray, whether that was at the temple in Jerusalem, from house to house, or later, in buildings dedicated to Christian worship. Those who were not able to attend a place of worship at such times were encouraged to join with the church in private prayer or as families. This rhythm of prayer and worship formed the basis of the great cycle of prayer within the Benedictine tradition and nourished those great monastic prayer warriors throughout the centuries, later becoming known as the ‘Hours of the Church’ or the ‘Divine Office.’ The books that contained them were called Lectionaries and much of that information went on to become incorporated in the Book of Common Prayer. If prayer is the lungs of the church, then this full and rich mural of psalm, scripture, worship, praise, petition and confession created an ‘oxygen rich’ environment for the church to thrive.
In recent years there has come a renewed interest in rediscovering this life-giving rhythm, whether that’s in initiative such as Prayer 24/7 or in the flourishing communities of the ‘new monasticism’ movement. LifeRhythm unashamedly builds on the foundation of much that has gone before, borrowing liberally from the Reformed, Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox traditions, whist building into it a comprehensive programme of Bible reading.
A Rhythm of Word.
Those who follow LifeRhythm will discover not only a renewed love of prayer, but will also learn to appreciate many aspects of spirituality and methods of prayer that have flourished in the church throughout the centuries. Each year, they will read through the entirety of the Gospels and New Testament at least once, the Acts of the Apostles twice, and the Psalms about four times. Over a four year cycle, they will also work through pretty much the entire Old Testament in chronological order. This means that where, for instance, an incident narrated in the book of Chronicles is also prophesied about by Isaiah and sung about by one of the Psalmists, these readings will be found grouped helpfully together. Important sections (such as the entire book of Genesis) will be read more than once over the four year period.
A Rhythm of Prayer.
The suggested prayers are grounded in some of the most ancient prayers of the Christian faith, which themselves come largely from the Scriptures. The purpose of liturgy is not to proscribe in a legalistic way what can be prayed on a particular day, but to serve as a helpful starting point and ‘scaffold’ to build upon. Praying morning, noon and night means that the soul is never more than a few hours away from a spiritual ‘meal’ and makes progression towards “praying without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) that much easier.
A Rhythm of Seasons.
LifeRhythm follows closely the traditional church seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter and takes into account many of the major feasts celebrated throughout the Christian world. At these times, the readings may temporarily depart from the chronological order and pick up their cue instead from the season the church happens to be currently celebrating. All this will become clear to anyone who follows the rhythm for any amount of time. One of the joys of following LifeRhythm is the discovery of hidden cycles of readings and recurring ‘mini-cycles’ throughout the ecclesiastical year. Even after following this for many years, there will still be new things to discover!
A Rhythm for All.
A key value with LifeRhythm is to use as much or as little as is helpful for you in your situation. The Rhythm enables an individual, praying on their own to feel as though they are joining their prayers with those of the entire church, whilst for a married couple or family praying together, much of the ‘awkwardness’ often associated with this practice is removed as the clear directions contained within it help ease any difficulties. The Rhythm is also an excellent resource for prayer groups who meet either occasionally or who regularly pray the Rhythm together.
A Rhythm of Life.
Personal Trainers tell us that most sedentary modern people use only a small percentage of their lung capacity. Not only does this limit our endurance but it also makes us susceptible to illness. The same is true in the realm of the spirit. As we start learning to breathe deeply and regularly with this life of prayer, so our capacity for life itself is increased and we are changed into the likeness of Jesus. Like any new exercise regime, it may feel strange at first, but stick with it and the Rhythm of Life in Christ Jesus will transform every area of your existence!