It’s Not About The Prayer Book

A prayer book arrived in my mailbox last week. It’s very much like the other prayer book I bought last year for my daughter, and contains the same prayers that are in the mobile app I use for most of my daily prayers.

I didn’t want to buy this prayer book. I did want my own prayer book, mind you. But this wasn’t the one I would have picked. I wanted a smaller one. One that contained the text of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. Maybe something leather-bound. A keepsake. A tchotchke.

Several weeks ago I sat with my priest and talked about prayer, and my failure to pray as much as I should. He told me I should buy a prayer book, and had me look on my cell phone for the particular one he recommended.

That browser window sat on my phone for weeks, unused. The problem with my prayer life wasn’t a lack of a prayer book. The mobile app I use contained plenty of prayers, and was far more convenient. So I held off ordering, occasionally calling up that web page, reminding myself to place the order, then forgetting it for a while.

After all, this wasn’t about not having the right materials. This was about having the discipline to actually pray daily. It was about being obedient to God’s commands.

Discipline. Obedience.

I’ve never been the rebellious type, but I do tend to balk at authority. I can find my own path, thank you very much, and will probably get there faster than if I do as you say. One lesson I keep having to learn over and over in Orthodoxy is that I must submit; to God, to the Church, to my priest. It’s not the submission of a slave or an acolyte, but of a child that knows his Father is teaching and protecting him.

I realized that buying this prayer book was not about having the right materials. It was about obedience.

My spiritual father had given me a discipline, and a task, in order to help me grow closer to God. Who was I to decide whether it was a good use of my time and money? Mine was not to ask, but to do as I was told.

As I said, the prayer book arrived in my mailbox last week. Some lessons take longer to learn than others.