I have been thinking a lot about prayer recently, and about what a powerful tool it is for our faith lives. It is both the simplest and at the same time the most difficult thing we are asked to do
Prayer in its simplest form is often an immediate unrehearsed plea for help – dashing off our requests, pleading for a solution to a problem, dutifully reciting some well-worn words. The basics are that we start up a conversation with God – but so often it can seem a one-sided conversation with awkward pauses amidst feelings that – I’m pretty sure I’m not doing this right – I actually don’t know what words I’m supposed to say – what if I’m just talking to myself?
The good news is that you definitely will not be talking to yourself, the bad news is that what you hear might not necessarily be in an audible language
It often helps if we have can have some point of focus and set time aside each day to spend time in prayer, whether it’s in formal worship such as Morning and Evening Prayer or simply lighting a candle and being still in God’s presence. It is in these times of stillness that prayer often just naturally happens. We start off in one direction and as our thoughts whirl and settle we find ourselves focused on a particular person or situation.
The fact is we tend to forget that we are actually bringing nothing new to God’s attention; and while we may frequently offer intercessions for people we will never know or meet and situations we will never be a part of, what it does do is emphasis our concerns, so that we come alongside God, who is already aware of what needs to happen
This sense that our prayers will only be answered according to God’s will, can be hard to accept, especially when we are praying for people and situations known to us and if that will seems to be contrary to our desires; but that doesn’t mean that our prayers will not have any effect.
I have often found that when I come across situations that need prayer, one of the most valuable outcomes is the comfort it gives to those for whom prayer is offered. Moreover, when there is nothing physical or practical that can be done about the situation, it is often the ONLY thing you can offer
The knowledge that people are upholding you in prayer has been a particularly encouraging aspect of my ordination training; not only from my sending church or as part of my college group, but more specifically the smaller OMC prayer group. The beautiful prayer beads (above right) that slip over a finger and nestle in the palm of your hand, were a gift from one of the members of this group. Each strand represents one of the five members, including myself; which helps us focus our prayers for each other as well as reminding us to pray for ourselves, something we often fail to do.
In whatever manner you choose to pray – whether as a congregation or as an individual; whether for yourself or for others; whether you know that your prayer has been answered or if you’re still waiting to find out what that answer will be – do be aware of the potential power your prayer might release. In the meantime may the words of a traditional Celtic blessing sustain you on your journey with God
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields
and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.