Tag Archives: pray

Making Space for Prayer

 

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Flowers for Peace

Last week we ran a series of School Prayer Spaces at Saint James’ Church of England Primary School, West End, Southampton. This involved creating interactive activities which the whole school, both children and adults could take part in and gave them a chance to explore life questions and experience a sense of spirituality and stillness in their busy lives.

These activities included:

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The Gathering

The Gathering – It was important that everyone was gathered both at the beginning and the end of the session. This helped as a reminder that it was important to move about the space in a quiet, thoughtful manner. The filmy voile also helped to create an air of mystery of what was to come.

IMG_0419Be Still Pods – Here was a reminder that God calls us to be still from time to time, to help us to learn more about ourselves and God. Simple pop up tents provided a space to do that, each furnished with a cushion, a focus lamp and ‘stillness’ image.

It’s amazing that even Reception class children (aged 4 to 5 years) could manage this brief time of stillness, and what was even more amazing was that the Year 6 children (aged 10 to 11 years), despite our concerns that they would be too tall or to ‘cool’ to give it a go, managed to squeeze themselves into the space willingly.

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Be still and know that I am God

Tardis Prayers – Here was an opportunity to think about the future. With a Tardis weIMG_0421 could travel forward and see ourselves in 10, 20, 40 years time. Some of the smaller children found the concept of forty years a little difficult to imagine, but they all came up with a suggestion of what they might be doing, what type of person they might be, expressing their hopes and dreams.

 

 

IMG_0422In amongst the usual ‘celebrity’ footballers, singers and dancers were the more traditional dreams of becoming a teacher, doctor, lawyer or policeman. The more altruistic souls saw themselves as solving world hunger and peace, as well as being kind and caring to those around them.

Certainly there was no limits to their ambitions with perhaps a future President of the United States or Queen of England here amongst us

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My Time Lord is the Lord of Time

IMG_0423Calm Jars – We all know that life, including school, can be stressful. When we are trying to juggle the demands of people, relationships, expectations and pressures, our minds can feel busy and restless and then we start to worry. A Swedish proverbs puts this into perspective, ‘Worry gives small things a big shadow’. In the Bible, however, God often reminds people to be still, to wait and to stay calm whatever the situation.

By gently shaking the jars and watching the glitter swirl and settle they could think about those things in their lives settling down and becoming calmer.

Stress Less – In a similar vein, the ‘stress less’ activity helped to consider the things that stress us out and how to let them go.

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Brightly coloured aqua beads (or frogs’ spawn as some referred to it) were the perfect medium to allow everyone the sense of worries and stresses literally falling away or through our fingers.

Quoting from Peter’s first letter, ‘Cast all your worries on God, because he cares for you’ (1 Peter 5:7) helped with the concept that our worries may not automatically disappear, but by sharing them it can make them easier to deal with.

 

Pray for the World – Our final activity within the prayer space was a chance to think about praying for those people around the world who we were never likely to meet or know anything about, and yet they were undoubtedly just like us.

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Using a simple map of the world we explored the differences between people, such as languages, skin colours, religions and beliefs and cultures, but also the fact that we all had one thing in common – we were all human, and therefore had the same needs – the desire to be safe, cared for and loved.

IMG_0418By the end of the week we had managed to cover almost every single country in the world in prayer pebbles, representing the simple prayer we said for the people living there.

If you look closely don’t be concerned that we might not have said a prayer for England – this did have pebbles placed on it, but I kept having to move them slightly so that we could compare the size of our country to others around the world.

 

One additional activity was our Peace Flowers, which we invited everyone to come back to after school. Here people were invited to create a flower and on the stem write the name of a place, person or situation that they felt needed peace. As you can see it was very popular

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Altogether a very enjoyable week, with lots of positive feedback from both the participants and the helpers who led the activities. It’s incredible how spiritual young children can be when we give them the opportunity and space to express this – and it doesn’t do the adults any harm either to be able to do so.

If you want to find out more about Prayer Spaces in School you can visit their website or read more about the Research Project they carried out

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As Our Prayers Rise Before You

As our prayers rise before you

The smoke of the burning incense went up with the prayers of God’s people – Revelation 8:4

Prayer is a powerful tool; it’s a tool that enables us to communicate with God either directly or through the advocacy of Christ, more often than not in the power of the Holy Spirit. If you were to dip your hand into your prayer toolbox you should not be surprised that at different times and in different circumstances you would find a diverse range of tools that you could draw out; yet each one of them would fit your purpose.

Throughout my training I have had opportunities to experience different forms of prayer; from the strict, traditional Prayer Book style to free-flowing extemporary prayer. However, the one constant is the discipline of saying Morning, Evening  and Night Prayer (Compline), although I have to confess that  the first of these has been more faithfully undertaken as against the occasional imperceptible mutterings as I drift off to sleep.

Morning Prayer, like most church liturgy changes with the seasons. There are moments throughout the year when certain phrases cause one to catch your breath or make your heart sing; in fact in Epiphany season I been known to break into song when reading the Jubilate – A Song of Joy; but just about all of them are preceded by an opening prayer that sets the right tone for the day ahead:

The night has passed, and the day lies open before us;
let us pray with one heart and mind.

Silence is kept.

As we rejoice in the gift of this new day,
so may the light of your presence, O God,
set our hearts on fire with love for you;
Amen

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… so may the light of your presence…

Each morning and evening we are also given one or more of the Psalms to read. However, these too are prayers and throughout the Psalms, David and the other writers poured out their hearts to God in prayer, expressing honest feelings of anguish and desperate pleas for protection. They grieved painful confessions of sin, confidently expressed their hope and trust in God, and joyfully lifted praises to God.

In the same way they enable us to give voice to our feelings, whether of despair when we are at a low point in our lives or sheer exuberance at the scope and majesty of creation. They bring us into contact with the ancient people and places of our history – some long-lost civilizations; but they can also speak into current situations.

I suspect that we all have our favourites but for me Psalm 104 ranks high on my list as it sweeps through the beauty of creation; from the heavens spread out like a curtain to the deeps in which the Leviathan play; the springs and brooks that quench the thirst of the wild donkeys to the cypress trees where storks dwell and the conies and wild goats taking refuge on the stony cliffs. How food is brought forth from the earth with wine to gladden hearts, oil to soothe and bread for strength. A true prayer of thanksgiving!

May God hold you in the palm of his hand

Christ, as a light illume and guide me

Sometimes though prayer can be difficult; when we are tempted to ask, ‘Why me?’ So often we seek responses to our prayers in very exact ways, and when they don’t appear to be answered ‘just so’ we may become disillusioned and distrusting. As part of a sermon recently we were asked to look at it in a slightly different way. Instead of asking. ‘Why has this happened to me?’ try removing the ‘Why’. Suddenly it becomes, ‘This has happened to me.’ Now our prayer can be for strength and guidance on how we are going to deal with the situation and thus be able to move forward, even if we need to take it day by day.

Which leads us to the evening of the day, when with that same one heart and mind that we started the day with we ask that the end of the day may be holy, good and peaceful, as our prayers rise before God; before finally, looking for a quiet night and perfect end to our day in a responsory prayer:

In peace we will lie down and sleep:
for you alone, Lord, make us dwell in safety.
Abide with us, Lord Jesus,
for the night is at hand and the day is now past.
As the night watch looks for the morning,
so do we look for you, O Christ.
The Lord bless us and watch over us;
the Lord make his face shine upon us and be gracious to us;
the Lord look kindly on us and give us peace
Amen

 

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And for those who are still out there seeking, this beautiful prayer is taken from Celtic Daily Prayer, Morning Prayer from the Northumbrian Community:

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you,
wherever He may send you.
May He guide you through the wilderness,
protect you through the storm.
May He bring you home rejoicing
at the wonder He has shown you.
May He bring you home rejoicing
once again into our doors.

Prayer, as I said at the beginning is as different and individual as we are, and whether our prayers are whispered in the dark or shouted from the rooftops, whether they come in fancy words or stuttering sobs, know that each and every one of them is heard. So never feel that your prayer time is wasted or that you don’t have time to pray. Those few precious moments could make all the difference to your day. Amen

Prayers have been reproduced from Daily Prayer ©The Archbishops’ Council 2005 and Celtic Daily Prayer ©2000, 2005 The Northumbria Community Trust

The Power of Prayer

Focussing our prayers

Focusing our prayers

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

Praying for others

Praying for others

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.

May God hold you in the palm of his hand

May God hold you in the palm of his hand