The Repetition Method
I recommend Noah Millman’s post about why ritual, liturgical prayer (versus spontaneous, extemporaneous prayer) is so powerful, and not, as those who don’t do it fear, boring. Excerpt:
I think there is something about the experience of moving one’s mind and body easily through a familiar pattern – so familiar that it almost requires no mind – that takes you out of the acute experience of the passage of time – the opposite of boredom, which is a painfully acute awareness of time passing without being filled. You have to go through boredom to get there only in the sense that you have to become sufficiently familiar with the pattern, and achieving that familiarity requires practice, and while you’re practicing you will likely find it boring. But the paradox is that you’re aware that it’s boring not because you’ve done it a thousand times before, but because you haven’t; not because it’s old hat, but because it’s still too new.
True. There is something so freeing about ritual prayer, and being liberated from having to think of something new and fresh to say to God, who already knows your heart. Mind you, I think that spontaneous prayer, silent or not, is also important, but I have found the familiar groove to be a path toward greater spiritual enlightenment. Just today, I was walking alone up the Boulevard Saint-Michel, and then through the back streets past the Odeon, heading to Saint-Germain, praying my prayer rope the whole time. Over and over again, I said the Jesus Prayer silently, and disengaged my mind. As I crested the hill just past the Senate building, it seemed to me that God was everywhere, and my heart was filled with thanksgiving for His presence, and the gift of this beautiful day in this most beautiful of all cities. Had I been trying to formulate a list of petitions in prayer, or my side of a dialogue, I would have been so caught up in the conversation, so to speak, that I wouldn’t have had this numinous experience — which is, if you think about it, the point of religion: to experience the presence of God, and to be changed by it.