This month’s focus on prayer has been rather thought-provoking – especially for me as I spend time preparing for our gatherings on Sunday. It’s been good to concentrate on this dimension of spiritual life which is common to people of all faiths, and some people of no particular faith. Over the past 2 weeks I have introduced some of you to my own understanding of prayer. How it has evolved as a consequence of time and experiences to the stage where I now see prayer as the “Heart learning to speak” and prayer as “Empathic Imagination”.
Prayer is such an ancient religious practise that it’s taken almost for granted as being a ‘natural’ expression of faith; an activity which, by its very nature, comes easily to everyone. However, I know this is not true for everyone. Indeed, true only for a few. And I’m not one of them.
Of course there are people for whom prayer comes as easily as breathing. But that is not my personal experience. Probably because I’ve had too many encounters with prayers as manipulation, or prayer as gossip, or prayer as failure, or prayer as self-intereat. I now approach this thing called prayer with much greater humility and even greater care.
I discovered quite early on in my Christian journey that when I pray silently (in my head so-to-speak) either my tinnitus became overpowering, or I got lost or distracted by so many other thoughts. I found myself flitting from thoughts about the poor in Africa to fixing a leaking tap, or remembering a bill I’d forgotten to pay. On the other hand, when I prayed out loud I could concentrate differently but quickly became psychologically uncomfortable with what I was doing.
It seems to me that every person has to work it out for themselves and search among a range of practises in the hope of finding something that works. Each of us needs to think just a little bit about what prayer is and what kind of ‘other’ is being engaged with, because the kind of prayer we engage in says volumes about the kind of G-d that inhabits our inner world. Socrates at his trial said that an unexamined life is not worth living. I think the same could be said about an unexamined ‘prayer life’.
In closing, let me add that music works for me – it seems to open up all sorts of connections. Pondering on a photograph takes me into some interesting places. I find listening to the prayers of others very helpful – especially when the head is trying to make sense of what is in the heart. I love hearing a bunch of words put together thoughtfully.
Anyway, have a think about it.
Reading: Luke 18: 1 – 8