For a while now I’ve been interested and spiritually craving books of prayer – books like The Book of Common Prayer, Celtic Daily Prayer, or The Divine Hours. I’ve even enjoyed the Treasury of Daily Prayer. Each of these books has it’s own unique gift to bring to praying with a prayer book. And, with curiosity, when the new Common Prayer was recently released, I took interest in how a modern community shapes it’s life together around prayer and praise. Common Prayer was put together by three people: Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro. I had heard of the first two, but Enuma Okoro? …not yet. So, I looked her up on Amazon and this book came back: Reluctant Pilgrim: A Moody, Somewhat Self-Indulgent Introvert’s Search for Spiritual Community With a title like that, I had to check this out. Lucky me – the local library had a copy.
Jenny, my wife, read a bunch out load on our way to family for Thanksgiving. She at first laughed at me and the title – wondering why I wanted to read it. But, within the first chapters, we both felt the same struggles, same desires, same spiritual itches, that Okoro writes about, granted with a female side that Jenny I’m sure understands more than I do.
The title gives a lot away and creates a craving to hear another person’s story, another person’s struggle for honest community, that kind of community where you don’t feel apologetic for wanting to really pray together or ask humongous theological questions together and spend weeks wrestling over one question… Hearing Okoro’s story gives legitimacy for my own story and creates a connection to others who have shared similar spiritual longings for community, for Church.
The basic premise so far, and we’re only half way in, is that finding or being found to a spiritual community is hard. Our inner desires seemed shaped by God to crave community like this but yet living into a community like our desires seem shaped to crave is borderline impossible.
My response so far: perhaps our desires are mis-shaped. Or, perhaps the community we feel obligated to be a part of is mis-shaped. Or… perhaps is those two mixed with a good dose of God working within messed up communities who aren’t sure of who they are or who they’re supposed to be and who happen to be composed of individuals who aren’t sure who they are and who they’re supposed to be. Yeah, I think that’s a bit of it. So, it’s more or less like we’re in a constant identity crisis. Maybe crisis isn’t the right word… Like crisis, but less anxious.
Why do Jenny and I resonate with the book so much? I think it’s because we’ve felt that same desire for a spiritual community like what Okoro write about. A community that listens to one another, takes time for one another, prays together, praises God together, serves together, plays together, thinks deeply together, and basically gives one another permission to be the beloved children of God we’re called to be through the waters of baptism. Permission. Attentiveness to one another and to God. That sounds about right.