Growing up Pentecostal, the faith was focused on experience. Emotional ecstasy was the goal of worship.
About my junior year of college (at a Pentecostal school), a friend of mine invited me to go to church with him. I was a drama geek at the time and he was the cool rogue guy who was part of the inside group. I think it was a bit of a b-romance. I wanted to be like the cool guy.
Anyway he invited me to church. Most Sundays, I attended Bedside Assembly of God with Brother Blanket and Sister Sheets. But because I wanted to hang with my friend, I went along. He drove me to the local movie theater, the meeting place of Light of Life Lutheran Church. It was my first exposure to a liturgical worship. I loved it. There is something very comforting about praying prayers that people long since dead prayed during their lifetime. It created such a strong sense of community and once I learned the formula, I was on the hooked.
I attended that church until my graduation from college. When I started working for my alma mater, it was frowned upon if staff did not attend an Assemblies of God (AG) church. So I did. For the next three years I grinned and bared it until I got another job. I was working at another AG school in Seattle, but one of my friends went to the local Episcopal Church. I visited it and loved it even more.
When I met my wife, I went back to the AG. Boring…but I loved her, so I went. We briefly had a stint in the Baptist Church…not my favorite.
Then quite by accident when we moved to Northern Virginia, I attended a Methodist Church. At the time, it was a very traditional church. Not quite as liturgical as the Lutherans or Episcopal, but definitely not AG or Baptist. There were smells and bells and I was happy as a clam.
Sadly, over time, the church became contemporary. Sigh…Oh well. It was about this time that I felt called into the ministry. I prayed for an hour a day. ½ hour of The Daily Office (Episcopal prayer book), 15 minutes of open dialogue prayer and even 15 minutes of “The Protestant Rosary,” something I found on the internet.
The whole “calling” thing did not work out. I stopped practicing spiritual discipline. Eventually, I turned my back on God and faith altogether.
But time has softened me and I am again trying to have a faith dimension to my life. Prayer has been a struggle, mostly because I got so good at faking it. I tend to focus on eloquence not content. But a couple of weeks ago, I found a Kindle version of the Book of Common Prayer. It automatically drops in all the right scriptures and collects so I do not have to flip pages. Kindle comes with a voice reader. It makes it seem that I am not praying along. I sometimes just listen to the Kindle read the minister parts and I join in the response.
Why do I do this? I think it is because I have serious doubts about the purpose of prayer. When I prattle on with my own prayers, it seems empty and lonely. When I pray the Daily Office, I feel connected. I am a part of something bigger than myself. I am sharing with generations of other people who are long since dead. I am part of the whole.
I still go to a contemporary church with myth wife. Every once in a while they will throw me a bone in the form of a responsive reading. But my heart belongs to the centuries old prayers of others. It may be vain babbling, but it works for me.