This is part 3 in a series; see previous parts here.
Prayer, Herbert says, brings us into the time of the angels. Our lives seem so simple, temporally: one thing succeeds another as the present recedes into the past and stretches into the future. Prayer complicates things, though, by interjecting this orderly succession with eternity. Eternity doesn’t just interrupt time or transcend it; eternity transforms time. Paul describes the effect in 1 Corinthians 7:
I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away. (NRSV)
Prayer, by introducing us into another temporality, suspends some features of our ordinary chronological lives. The marital status by which we define ourselves, the pangs of loss, the richness of joy, the possessions we treasure, our earthly vocations—none of these goes away, exactly, when we enter the time of prayer, but they do come to matter differently as another vocation comes to rest on our souls.
The new vocation that gradually settles on us as we pray literally changes our lives, so that the garment of time rests on our shoulders a little differently than it did before. In the time of the angels we ourselves become messengers, bearers of the gift. Our lives take a turn for the pastoral, and the care of souls begins to infuse our daily tasks. These pastoral callings take many different forms: after all, some of us are married and others are single; some of us mourn while others rejoice. Whatever shape our earthly lives are called to take, prayer alters the way we inhabit them.
“Angels’ age” should also describe the hours we spend in worship with one another. Prayer has the power to transform those, too. Mormon worship is notably low on pageantry, so from an external perspective we’re not exactly going to evoke the splendors of heaven come down, but, if angelic time means a change working on our everyday vocations from within, our plain style of worship might provide the perfect occasion for a spiritual new creation. When we pray communally, then, we should plead for the angels’ age to settle just a little more on our hearts during our time together, so that we might return to the workaday world with new and uplifted wings.