Growing up, I only knew one prayer by heart. The Lord’s Prayer. I also memorized a ton of Bible verses. These things always seemed enough to me. Actually, if I’m being totally honest, it was a source of pride. The prayers and verses my church used were actually in the Bible. They weren’t the words of man like those other denominations had to learn. When we wanted to talk to Jesus, we just had a conversation with Him.
Apostles’ Creed. Catechism. Hail Mary. These were all foreign to me. They seemed like meaningless chants and I never thought I needed them.
And I don’t. Need them. However, as my faith deepens and I understand what these ancient words mean in the life of a Christian, I want them. I sit with them in my quiet moments. Relating again to my own experience, it’s like learning the story behind the hymns I sang in the Southern Baptist tradition of my childhood. Knowing the history of where these classical elements of my faith come from, I realize they connect us with all saints of the past and future. These words were composed by men and women who had a great and mighty faith. They matter.
That’s why I like Preston Yancey’s writing so much. He’s walked a similar faith journey and it led him to embrace these practices of the saints. He teaches me about things like the church calendar and theology and I have so much to learn. He’s Anglican and that fascinates me because I didn’t even know there was an Anglican tradition until like two years ago.
This Christian faith is a deep and rich one, my friends.
Plus, he composes beautiful sentences like these:
I have lived in six kitchens. In three out of the six kitchens I have called home, I have prayed a blessing over the space before any great work - moving in, moving out, holiday feasts. Anglicans, along with many other liturgical denominations, believe in the blessing of spaces.
These words summarize Preston’s newest book, Out of the House of Bread: Satisfying Your Hunger for God with the Spiritual Disciplines, quite well. He compares spending time in his kitchen, baking a loaf of bread from scratch often enough that it threatens to become familiar; with creating space in your life to practice spiritual disciplines, which can also become overly familiar. But when done well and true, both can usher in a simple richness to our lives.
Spiritual disciplines are kinds of prayer, and when you find yourself in the middle of a season where nothing spiritual seems to matter and nothing feels like it’s working, having something new to try, a different perspective, a new way of telling God you’re in need or you’re lonely or you’re just fed up can feel like a lifeline.
So, for each chapter of the book, readers encounter various stages of baking a loaf of bread, coupled with practicing nine different spiritual disciplines. For example, examen, intercessory prayer, remembrance, fasting and feasting. Preston encourages readers to only read a week at a time. Get to know your bread and really try out the classic spiritual disciplines found here.
I walk this faith journey with many people who never understood why they memorized all those prayers and practiced certain spiritual disciplines. If you were never taught the meaning and only spent your time with these prayers seeing if you could say them faster than your buddy, you might have missed the point.
Which is why I cringe when my daughter boasts to me about how she can recite John 3:16 in less than five seconds. You get my point. Hopefully, you can also see the purpose in memorizing words that remind us of our wondrous hope. Such as those found in this Heidelberg Catechism question and answer.
Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?
A. That I am not my own,
but belong with body and soul,
both in life and in death,
to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.
I received a copy of Out Of The House Of Bread, written by Preston Yancey, from netgalley.com for the purpose of generating a review. With the exception of the Heidelberg Catechism Question and Answer, italicized quotes are from the book. The opinions expressed here are my own.