This is one of those amazing books that came into my hands at the perfectly appointed time. THE AWKWARD SEASON: Prayers for Lent by Pamela C. Hawkins (Upper Room Books 2009 ISBN 978-0-8358-9997-0) at first does not sound like a title one might choose for summer reading. And yet, for me, in the midst of a very "awkward season," the timing was perfect....
The book is designed to be used on any day during Lent, from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday. Each daily office is shaped around daily themes which are prompted by the psalm for the day. There are daily themes of Clearing, Longing, Waiting, Learning, Seeking, Asking, Searching, Praying, Trusting, Hoping and Believing. These themes are precisely what made it so easy for me to enjoy the book now, during the non-Lenten season.
The author writes beautifully. Her prayers are true poetry. Here is one of my favorites from the section entitled "Seeking:"
A PRAYER OF CONFESSION
From the beginning, O God,
you formed light that I might see;
sky that I might look;
earth and sea that I might seek and search.
You formed creatures of every kind -
swarming, flying, swimming, creeping -
that I, O God, might find my place with them;
that I, O God, might praise your making them.
Open my eyes,
too often closed;
clear the sleep from my heart,
too often settled;
that I may seek the blessing of your presence,
O God of my beginning, O God of my life.
Week after week, the reader is invited to return to the repeated pattern and practice of prayer. Prayers of invocation, confession, intercession, thanksgiving and blessing remain the same and only the scripture reading changes. The author explains, "Returning to the same words of prayer anchors us in the otherwise awkward swells and currents of a culture that distracts and pushes us away from our relationship with God."
Tucked within the back flap of this beautifully crafted little book, is a marvelous, surprise gift: a finger labyrinth! The seven circuit modified Chartres-style labyrinth is a delightful enhancement to the reader's personal prayer experience. When the reader has finished reading the daily Prayer of Confession aloud or silently, he or she may choose to trace the finger labyrinth from its entrance to the center during the "Releasing" phase of the "walk." In the Center, the reader is encouraged to rest a bit before reading the Scripture Reading for the day and then instructed to remain in the sacred center of the labyrinth during the "Receiving" phase for as long as he feels led to do so while reflecting on the scripture. Finally, the third movement is a time of "Returning". The Prayers of Intercession are read first and then the reader/walker reflects on these while tracing the path of the labyrinth back to the beginning.
I sincerely look forward to reading THE AWKWARD SEASON: Prayers for Lent this spring beginning on Ash Wednesday as the author intended. Ms. Hawkins has also included a simplified six week session plan for a prayer group to follow using the book as a resource. Until that time, however, I will sincerely enjoy being refreshed and rejuvenated by this book's thought provoking, poetic prayers and its comforting finger labyrinth....
Peace for your Path,