Over the past weeks a number of us have been thinking in some detail about the Lord’s Prayer as we explore the Pilgrim Course together. It has been a really interesting thing to do, to sit and thoughtfully examine, line by line, the prayer which perhaps more than any other trips off the tongue without a single thought. I guess that you like me know this prayer better than any other. It is our default prayer and the one that, if we have no other words, we can always return to.
One of the discussions that has come up again and again is about how to build prayer into daily life. Many of the group start well and make a resolution to pray each day, but it drifts off and grinds to a halt. Prayer then becomes the thing we do only in church, or only in emergencies.
Perhaps we start from the wrong place. We see it as a task to be completed like the washing up or the ironing. Prayer isn’t yet another task to complete on your ever growing list. Prayer is relationship. Prayer is relationship with God. And this is partly why it is so hard. Because it is relationship it is about letting go and allowing someone else to be at the centre of your life. In so many ways the human spirit will recoil from this kind of loving. We like to be at the centre ourselves. But this is the most fundamental truth about Christian prayer. Prayer is relationship with God; it is the relationship we are made for.
“Pray how you can, not how you can’t”
Obvious isn’t it, and yet many of us are stuck in ways of praying that are not really us. We have ideas about how prayer should be done which we can never achieve ourselves, and so we become discouraged and give up. If we think it is the best way to pray in a silent room, lit only by candlelight, on our knees and for a least an hour, who on earth can achieve that? I certainly can’t and it’s my job! We often have unrealistic expectations about our life of prayer. And if we have unrealistic expectation about what is involved is it any wonder that we lose heart when we are unable to achieve them.
I want to start a movement within our parish to build prayer into our daily life and routine in such a way that it expresses this truth that prayer is relationship with our God. And I want to start by taking up the suggestion from Bishop Stephen Cottrell about saying a short prayer of grace before a meal. It need not be a long prayer, it need not be more than the shortest of all graces – ‘Ta, Pa’ – but it could be the start of putting prayer back into our busy and overcrowded lives in a realistic and achievable way.
So I am going to be talking and preaching about this during this glorious season of Easter joy as we ready ourselves for Pentecost. I am going to be giving suggested prayers, encouraging us all to take up the pattern of thanking the creator before you eat and most of all praying that we all might rediscover the joy of our relationship with God in prayer.
If we start with this one small thing, who knows where the relationship may take us as Christ’s body here on earth.
With much prayer