by the Rev. Dr. Jane Patterson
From “Spiritual Practices – Living the Gift,” the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of Reflections magazine. To read the entire issue, click here.
The alarm goes off in the dark of my bedroom. I reach out from under the covers to switch it off, burrow down deeper, try not to become aware of how the pitch-black room is lightening to gray. The brown chair by the sliding glass door is calling to me. I imagine myself boiling water for tea. Tea would be good. I push the covers aside, like a diver coming up from deep water, and am glad for the new day.
All the people who teach on daily practices of prayer suggest that first thing in the morning is the best time for prayer, and having a customary place with your prayer book or icon or candle there is the best way to do it. So why, then, is it so hard, morning by morning, to heave myself up and out of my dreams, and into the solid room?
Yes, there is the cup of tea.
But it isn’t only about the tea. Decades of rising for prayer before the dawn have shifted the focus of my attention, from the supposed heroics of waking before the rest of my neighborhood is up, to the awareness that it is not my prayers that begin the day at all, but rather God’s prayer that I am lucky enough to let move through me. When I reach the chair by the glass door, sit down, and pull my legs up into it, I join the living stream of prayer that is always pouring out from God, blessing and healing and repairing the earth. Breath by breath I get to listen to the rhythm of a life so immensely greater than my own, and begin again to match my life to its rhythms.
The other reason I get up has to do with the earthly side of things: there is no praying alone. One person praying is an opening for the prayers of all, a channel for all the prayers and all the hurts and all the gratitude of the earth to ascend to God. I get up to be the place where God’s mercy meets the heartache of the world, even if I can barely put words to it. I get up early because my brown chair is the place where I get to join a daily miracle of grace: the unceasing prayer of God and the prayers of the earth intertwining in the dance that God imagined from the beginning. So good. So lucky.
The Rev. Dr. Jane Patterson is an educator, retreat leader, writer, and co-director of The WorkShop in San Antonio TX. Reach her at
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