During these uncertain times our routines are turned on their head. Our communal worship has stopped. Our home groups and bible studies have new physical distancing rules. Our sense of hospitality is curtailed. In short, many of the ways we praised and served the Lord are ceased or altered.
Yet the need for prayer and worship is so vital at this time. We need to connect and feel close to God, especially as our physical contact with others is so heavily reduced.
So, what are some ways to maintain, or even grow, both our faith and our spiritual practices from home?
1) Create time for prayer. It does not matter when it is or even how long, but stick to it! It might be first thing in the morning, last thing at night, once the kids are ensconced in schoolwork, or once the dinner is done. Find a time that works for you. It needs to be long enough to be flexible, so a 20 minute hick up does not derail your time; so you might set aside 40 minutes even if you know you can do it in 20 minutes. You might also opt for several times during the day. Whatever you decide it needs to be practical and joyful to maintain it. 5.00am is great if you are a real early bird, but if the thought of rising that early sickens you, find another time.
2) Shape your prayer. Is short and simple the best way for you? Is it five minutes in which you dedicate yourself and your day to the Lord. Or perhaps while you garden for an hour and give your time to prayer and serving the Lord's creation. Is it one of the daily offices from the ANZPB? Or another prayer book that brings comfort? It could be contemplative, maybe the Daily Examen or Lectio Divina. There is a great guide for centering prayer here which is ideal for those new to contempative prayer.
3) Find an online group. It might be your existing group going digital, or it could be a whole new group. Try and find one that meets at least once a week. Let this group be one where you engage in communal prayer, and then maybe bible study, faith discussions, or simply checking in on how every one is going.
4) Read! Read the bible, and also read other faith books. Chose an area you are interested in, no one reads something they find dull. It could be anything from the works of Thomas Aquinas to a book by Adrian Plass.
5) If you need to, have tactile things to help. You could light a candle or some incense while you pray. You could hold something that feels sacred, like a cross, or prayer stone. Whatever you choose, it needs to help pull you into the sacred space.
6) Journal your spiritual practices. How are they going? Where is God in them? How do you feel about them? What do you want to change? What do you want to keep? Occasionally look back to see how you were going previously, have things changed from then? Why or why not?
7) Sprinkle other pieces of spiritual practice into your day. This could be saying grace over dinner. Saying the Lord's prayer while you wash your hands. Have a cup of tea in silence in the sunshine, giving that time to listen to God.
8) Allow time, perhaps once a month, for reflection on how you are going with your new 'at home' spiritual practices. This is when you can read back on the journal. Or when you decide to change the routine. It is in an opportunity to look back and see a bigger picture, and see where God has been moving. This can be done alone, but could also be done via Skype call to someone who is also engaging in spiritual practice at home. It could be done with your priest. Or if could be done with a spiritual director. You can find a spiritual director here
9) Find new ways to serve. If you used to be a welcomer for worship on Sunday you might feel a little lost right now! But there is many many ways to serve the Lord. Find ones that work for you. It might be ringing around people in your faith community to provide social connection. It could be growing extra vegetables to give to neighbours. It might be offering to put together online worship resources. And it could simply be your prayers, which are a great way to serve!
10) Seek and share joy. Can you find it in your garden? In a lovely meal? In the smile of someone? Begin to practice seeing God in the small things, and the joy in the small things. Spiritual practices do not stop when the prayer book shuts! You can have whole day a series of spiritual encounters if you look for them. Particularly in times of fear and uncertainty, seeking joy is a great way to stay healthy, and positve. Can you find bits of joy to share with others? Can you be a source of joy to the world around you? Remember, joy is not the same of happiness. Emotions such as sadness, gladness, anger and fear still exist in joy and it is important not to shut our feelings down. But can you find the still waters beneath the surface emotions?
However you choose to shape your spiritual practices at home, make sure it is manageable. Remember, God is ever present, so this time is for you to connect in. God is already there! It might start out as only 5 minutes in the morning, or it might be an hour. Do not compare your practice to the practice of others. This is about you and God, not them.
Good luck as you embark upon this precious journey!