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Wednesday, 21 February 2018
IT was widely reported back in 2013 that four out of five Britons believe in prayer.
Given the decline in church attendance, such an obvious feature of our society over the last few decades, that figure may still come as a surprise.
But spirituality is a popular topic these days so maybe the continued interest in prayer is connected to this.
Or perhaps prayer is just something very human, something that most of us are moved to do, whatever our personal beliefs.
In my line of work, it goes without saying that I talk a lot about prayer. I lead prayers as part of the liturgy, I preach (to myself as much as to others!) about the importance of praying and I remind the parents and godparents of children who are being christened that they are promising to pray for the child in the weeks, months and years to come.
But the thing is, however many of us still believe in prayer, a lot of us think that we’re just not very good at it.
Prayer can so often seem very technical: something for the “experts”.
And it’s true that all of us struggle at times to find the right words, even assuming we’ve managed to grab a few moments of quiet in the midst of the busy lives so many of us lead.
But at bottom, prayer is a simple thing. Basically, it’s about bringing all that we are, and sitting in the presence of God, being open to God’s loving gaze.
We may often use words to express our hopes, dreams, and fears.
But sitting in silence, just being with God, is prayer too, something that all the major religions and spiritual traditions have recognised.
And it doesn’t really matter if we think we’re “no good” at prayer because Christians believe that God the Holy Spirit is in our hearts, helping us.
I’ve said that prayer is simple but that doesn’t mean it’s easy! We struggle to carve out time for prayer — for being with God.
We can get frustrated by the internal “chatter” of thoughts in our minds. And for those looking for an excuse not to pray, there’s always some pressing activity to be getting on with.
So here’s an invitation. Find a quiet place to sit for a few minutes. Still your mind and body, perhaps by taking a few deep breaths, or by saying, “Come, Holy Spirit”.
Notice your thoughts and feelings as they rise to the surface and just acknowledge them. Enjoy the silence.
And if you are moved to, focus on a situation — a friend or relative in need; a joyful event in your life to give thanks for; a tragic event in the news — and lift that situation to God. Even if you don’t end up using words, that too is prayer.
If you’re one of the four out of five people who believe in prayer (and even if you’re sceptical), try giving it a go!
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