If you’re familiar with church services, at some point you’ve likely encountered the unfortunate spectacle of someone on the worship team being off-beat.
I once saw a pianist charge through a worship song so fast that the congregation struggled to keep up, prompting even the lead guitarist to stop playing his instrument in bewilderment. I’ve seen people in the audience clap off-beat with so much gusto that the singers were completely thrown off, and I’ve been jolted out of a prayerful moment by a drummer who literally danced to the beat of his own drum.
Thankfully, the Lord cares about the motives of our hearts more than the perfection of our music-making. But when the beat is consistent and the musicians are on the same page, it makes it easy for people to enter into a time of worship.
Rhythm woos us. It provides scaffolding for our time with the Lord.
When the beat is steady, a song sounds so natural we don’t even really notice. But when the rhythm is off, it’s impossible not to. Why?
Because we’re wired for patterns. In fact, all of creation contains God’s rhythms – the rise and fall of the tide, the steady beat of the human heart, the darkening skies at the end of each day.
Tha-thump, tha-thump, tha-thump.
Rhythm helps us to set expectations. Rhythm helps us to join the dance. Rhythm helps us to enter rest.
Just as the rhythm of the heart pumps blood through our veins, the rhythm of God of grace brings life to our spirit.
But the hum of our busy lives silences God’s beat sometimes, doesn’t it? Like a pianist who insists on racing through a song, we can race through life at such a dizzying pace that we forget to enter into the heart of worship.
Even when our life is not busy with activity, our restless minds race on without pause.
God knows this about us. And instead of pointing an accusing finger – “how dare you ruin my music?” – He lovingly calls us into spiritual disciplines. These disciplines add structure to our lives so our faith can grow. As Dallas Willard says in The Spirit of the Disciplines:
“The general human failing is to want what is right and important, but at the same time not to commit to the kind of life that will produce the action we know to be right and the condition we want to enjoy…We intend what is right, but we avoid the life that would make it a reality.”
This certainly describes me. I’ve had to learn how to reach for tools that help me maintain rhythm. The Rhythm of Daily Prayer and the Cycle of Daily Readings are two of our regular practices at Ffald y Brenin. Doing so gives us a sacred beat around which to build our lives.
We love having Ffald y Brenin guests join us for daily prayer during their stay and many tell us that the rhythm of daily prayer is something they will incorporate into their lives back home.
I write this as COVID-19 restrictions are cautiously being lifted. Everyone’s regular rhythms have been disrupted – ours included – as the retreat centre can only take a limited number of overnight guests. But we can all continue the rhythm of daily prayer right where we are.
In fact, in a time of chaos, uncertainty, and lack of normal structures and schedules, it’s more important than ever.
One of our recent guests put it best: “What do I want to take back home with me? The discipline of the rhythm of daily prayer. Here, you’re given the basics of what you need and a rhythm. Your journey is your own. That is what I needed.”
How can you enter into the Lord’s heavenly rhythm today? We’ve made the Ffald y Brenin Rhythm of Daily Prayer available as a free download during this season of COVID-19.
Photo credit: Brett Sayles, Creative Commons via Pexels