St Pauls Lent Course on Prayer: “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1)

(This is part of a course which was first used on Wednesdays during Lent in 2019 at St Pauls)

Session One  (Ash Wednesday) “When you pray…” (Matthew 6:5)

General comments

I want to make a few general comments about prayer, then look at today’s theme: “When you pray…”

Lent is a special time for prayer, and for fasting, following Jesus’ experience of 40 days in the wilderness.

We will concentrate on prayer during these next six weeks at these Wednesday services.  The intention is that we gain a greater understanding of what prayer is and most importantly that we deepen our own practice of prayer, individually and as a parish.

Prayer is vital; it changes things, starting with us.  Prayer itself should be seen as a form of action, and not just a preparation for action.

In exploring aspects of prayer we will look at what the Bible indicates about prayer, what other people have written about prayer, and what people’s experiences of prayer have been.

There are different kinds of prayers – prayers of praise, confession, thanksgiving, of petition or asking.

There is no one right way to pray, for prayer is ultimately about a relationship with God, about communication. And how we see and understand God affects how we pray.

Our personalities have an effect on the way we pray. For example, are we easily able to keep silence, or do we find ourselves praying on the move?  Are our prayers of an intellectual nature, that remain something in our minds only, or do we have rituals or objects to help us pray, or a particular posture to express ourselves – such as in lighting a candle or kneeling.

We may like using set prayers, or praying spontaneously.

We can pray alone; it is also helpful to pray with others; including with children at home, or other church members, which helps build up the body of Christ.

And moving beyond ourselves, how can prayer contribute to the establishment of God’s reign of compassion, justice and peace.

“And when you pray…”

We look briefly at today’s reading:  Jesus say “When you pray…”

When, not if; Jesus assumes that they pray. The important point is about how one prays.

You will see on the reverse of the leaflet the reading for today which I have extended by two verses: “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:5-8)

It is not about the length of prayers said.  When the disciples ask the question of Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray,” how does he respond?  With the Lord’s Prayer.  Short and to the point.

The questions below are to get you to think about how you pray, which you ask yourselves or discuss with others if you live with other people or are part of some group in the parish or beyond the parish.  I make the suggestion that we share the wisdom that comes out of these discussions with the rest of us.

May today start a new journey of discovery, experimentation and practice of prayer.

For Parish group discussion, family or personal use.

Consider the following questions:

  1. When and where do you pray?
  2. Why do you pray?
  3. How do you pray?
  4. Have your prayer habits changed over the years?
  5. Are there particular prayers you like to use regularly?

If so, what are they?

  1. How can your prayer life grow?

Session Two: Theme “Jesus at prayer”

Introduction

We continue with our journey in prayer.   We want to strengthen our prayer lives, personally and as a church.  And we explore different ways of doing this.

A Roman Catholic priest, John Chapman, once said: “Pray as you can, and not as you can’t.”  Be true to yourself when you pray.  There is no one right way to pray.

Feedback

One of the values of looking at this topic of prayer together is that over the weeks we can learn from one another.

I got feedback from one of the groups that went through the questions last week.  The value of corporate prayer came up: some find it valuable to pray in a group with others.  This is certainly to be encouraged within the church.  It can be encouraging listening to the prayers of others in a group – it can motivate us to offer our own prayers.

Jesus and prayer

This past Sunday Revd Mduduzi Mathe preached on Luke 4, the account of Jesus going into the desert to pray, and encouraged us in our own desert experiences – our struggles, our hardships, our conflicts – to pray.   Prayer will see us through.

Jesus had a tough time in the desert (or wilderness) but it prepared him for his public ministry; when he returned we read that he was filled with the power of the Spirit and began to teach in the synagogues.

Today we think further about Jesus and prayer, or “Jesus at prayer.”

Not only did Jesus teach about prayer but he modelled how we should prayer.  I give a few examples from the gospels of his practice and teaching on prayer.

Mark 1:35 reads: “In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there.”  Jesus does this amidst the activities of a busy life.  And with it there are some reflections on what prayer meant for Jesus.  Jesus had a rhythm of work and withdrawal which sustained him as he faced many draining demands on his time and mounting opposition to his ministry.

Besides praying alone Jesus also prayed with others: in the account of the Transfiguration we read a few Sundays ago we heard that Jesus took Peter, John and James with him and went onto a mountain to pray. (Luke 9:28.) Jesus also prayed for others.  For example, “Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them.”  (Matthew 19:13.)  He prayed in a variety of ways for the healing of people – sometimes at a distance, with a touch, or offering forgiveness of sins, or merely the request to get up.  This is no set formula for prayer.

Jesus often prayed outside, in nature, such on a mountainside (Luke 6:12.).   Jesus prayed regularly: “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”  (Luke 5:16).  Jesus could pray for long periods: in Luke 6:12, we read that Jesus “spent the night praying to God” – this was the night before choosing his disciples.

For Jesus God is in charge.  When he prayed in Gethsemane, he said “Yet not as I will, but as you will,” (Matthew 26:39).  It was there that he prayed agonised prayers, and sweated blood.  Jesus was bold in the approach to prayer: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will. (Mark 11:24).  “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1).

Jesus did not necessarily always use words in his prayer. I end with two stories about silence and listening to God.

An amusing and somewhat surprising story about listening is told about Mother Teresa.  Someone asked her: “When you pray, what do you say to God?  She answered: “I don’t say anything. I listen.” Fumbling for what to say next, her interviewer finally said: “Okay, when you pray, what does God say to you?” Mother Theresa said: “He doesn’t say anything. He listens.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu tells the story of his time in hospital with TB, in which he was very sick, coughing up blood.  “I knew what this signalled.  The doctors knew it, too.  “Your young friend is not going to make it,” they had told Trevor Huddleston.  They didn’t have to tell me.  I had seen it before.  I knew.  In the short shuddering breaths between coughs I spoke to God: “Well, God, if I’m going to die it’s OK.  And if not, that’s OK too.”  I was surprised by the calm that came over me after I had spoken that prayer.  I didn’t feel brave.  I just didn’t feel desperate or anxious anymore.  I was clinging to life.  I hadn’t given myself up to death.  I had just allowed myself to rest in God’s presence, and I was at peace.

As the years passed, my prayer seems to have come full circle.  Most of the time, in prayer, I find that I am holding the world and my concerns before God.  I do not offer God prescriptions – “Do this, fix that” – though most of us would say there is much for God to fix and do.  I know that.  I read the daily papers and I watch the news.  I see all the pain and turmoil in the world….  I have children and grandchildren, travels, meetings, and presentations; all of these bring their own delights, cares, and concerns.  Often I know what I want to have happen.  Yet when I enter into my private time of prayer, I sit and offer all those plans, hopes, joys, and cares to God – not prescribing to God what should happen, but holding people and situations before God.  I allow myself to become quiet.  I just try to be….

Prayer puts us in a receptive mode.  As we still ourselves and let our yammering thoughts recede into the background, we can begin to hear the voice of God that has been speaking softly beneath the din of our demands.” (Desmond Tutu, Made for Goodness: And why this makes all the difference)

For Parish group discussion, family or personal use.

In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there.” (Mark 1: 35)

“In the centre of breathless activities we hear a restful breathing.  Surrounded by hours of moving we find a moment of quiet stillness.  In the heart of much involvement there are words of withdrawal.  In the midst of action there is contemplation.  And after much togetherness there is solitude….

In the lonely place Jesus finds the courage to follow God’s will and not his own; to speak God’s words and not his own; to do God’s work and not his own….

Somewhere we know that without a lonely place our lives are in danger.  Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure.  Somewhere we know that without a lonely place our actions quickly become empty gestures.  The careful balance between silence and words, withdrawal and involvement, distance and closeness, solitude and community forms the basis of the Christian life and should therefore be the subject of our most personal attention.” (Henri Nouwen, from Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life).

Consider the following questions:

  1. Why did Jesus pray so often?
  2. How does prayer help you?
  3. What do you feel when you pray?
  4. How do your prayers make a difference?
  5. How can prayer become a central focus of your life?

Session Three: Theme “Pray without ceasing”

These short inputs are designed to offer us some insights into prayer and most importantly to encourage us in our own journey of prayer during Lent.  Each week we also read of the experience of someone’s experience of prayer.  Today it will be that of Archbishop Thabo Makgoba.

Today I want to reflect on and build on what we have covered so far before looking at what it may mean to “pray without ceasing.”  Many of you have well established patterns of prayer; others look for fresh insights an encouragement in their prayer life.

We have said that prayer is based on a relationship; it is about communication between us and God and God and us.  God has been described as the “Divine lover”, or may be imagined as a parent or friend.   This communication can take place in different ways.  We mentioned a story about Mother Theresa: When asked what she says to God in prayer she said she listens and when asked what God says to her she said God listens too.  And Jesus warns his followers against “babbling like the pagans, believing that somehow more words make our prayers more effective.   We pray in a way that is natural to us to develop our relationship with God.

We have said that prayer is something we learn.  We grow into it. If you want to run a marathon you start off running short distances and then build up to run longer ones.  The same with prayer; we start with a  short time and over time can increase it to longer; this is true particularly of silent prayer or meditation – we need to practice.  Like physical exercise prayer also requires discipline.

We have said there are different types of prayer. Some like using the order which is spelt out in ACTS (Adoration or praise of God, worshipping God for who God is; C for confession, willingness to say, “I’m sorry” for yourself or the Church; T for thanksgiving, to say thank you and S for supplication, which is a readiness to ask in faith, for oneself or for others).  Using our fingers to guide us can be useful.  You will see today in the questions in our pew leaflet we focus on prayers of gratitude.

We have said that prayer is action.  It should not be an excuse for not taking any other actions; it is the foundation for all the other actions we take.  Tomorrow is Human Rights Day –  we become conscious of injustices not only in South Africa but in the world.   An awareness of these injustices inevitably moves us to prayer.  St Paul says we are engaged in a spiritual struggle with the principalities and powers and he lists prayer as a tool to be used against those powers, the evil we see in the world.

We heard of the prayer of a young Desmond Tutu who was very sick with TB.  He prayed in between the coughs:  “Well, God, if I’m going to die it’s OK.  And if not, that’s OK too.”  I was surprised by the calm that came over me after I had spoken that prayer.’ Sometimes we too pray a prayer of what we may call relinquishment, like a child who has tried everything saying to a parent it is now up to you to do it, to make it work.   We see this payer in our Psalm today, v 16: “But in you Lord have I put my trust: I have said ‘You are my God.’”

Some like to pray spontaneous prayers and some set liturgical prayers.   If you find words or phrases in prayer that “work” for you savour them, memorise this, hold them in your heart as you pray them regularly.

Let us look at how we may become more mindful of the need to prayer, more focussed in our prayer and how our payer may engage not just our minds but our bodies too.

Firstly, we are to live lives of prayer.  So when do we pray?  It’s best to start in the morning.  We may use set forms to help us to continue our prayer during the day.  The Prayer Book for example has the offices of Morning and Evening Prayer.  One can also use prayers at mid-day and at night (See the forms in the Services for Parish Use 1993).  There may be other things that trigger our need to pray during the day.

To engage the body and not just the mind in prayer, posture is important.  In Scripture there are many examples of different physical positions of prayer: standing, kneeling, prostrate, arms upraised.   What is helpful for you?

Some who find they fidget in prayer may find some form of prayer beads or rosary to help them focus –there is a tradition of Anglican rosaries.  A lighted candle may help us focus.

Some find it helpful to walk and pray. You can walk where you live and use the natural world around to guide your prayer, what God opens your eyes to.

Different ways of praying suit different personalities.  Some people are more creative and may even draw or dance as aids to prayer.

We conclude with one description of one of the contexts of prayer that Archbishop Thabo Makgoba found himself in his praying with the Mandela family in the last period of Mandela’s life. It is from his book  Faith and Courage: Praying with Mandela:

“Before leaving the hospital I wanted to affirm Graca – as a woman of belief, prayer and of deep faith. In Cape Town I had looked at the Bible readings set for the day for inspiration and dictated a prayer to Sarah Rowland Jones in which I aspired to capture both Madiba and Graca’s spirituality. I had before me an image of God’s loving hands, represented in the body of Jesus, his son, stretched out on the cross, and I wanted to bring that image closer to Graca praying that God might enfold not only Madiba but also her with compassion and the comfort and conviction that they were not alone, even in this lonely journey.  I also wanted to signal our preparedness for what was to come.  The Bible readings referred to Rachel, the Old Testament figure who has come to be seen as the classic mother lamenting over her lost children, and to Jesus’ friend Lazarus.”  (Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Faith and Courage: Praying with Mandela)

For Parish group discussion, family or personal use.

 “Pray without ceasing; give thanks in all circumstances”  1 Thessalonians 5:17-18

“To develop a grateful heart we need to be thanking God day and night, whenever we have a chance and all through our lives.

Moreover, generalized prayers of thanks for everything are not enough.  What we need are specific prayers of thanks for specific things: my health, my eyesight, my mind, my experience of life.  We can also say prayers of thanksgiving for our friends and relatives, and for all the people and events that have formed us over the years.  The list is endless.

We tend to make lists, at least in our minds, of all our complaints, all the things we think we need or want, all the things we don’t have.  That is why prayers of intercession, asking God for this and that, are so much more popular than prayers of thanksgiving.  There is a place for intercessions, but on the whole we need to spend more time expressing our gratitude for the countless gifts that have been showed upon us.” (Albert Nolan, Jesus Today: A Spirituality for Radical Freedom)

Consider the following questions:

  1. What does it mean to you to “pray without ceasing”?
  2. What would help you to have a more prayerful life?
  3. What do you thank God for in your prayers?
  4. What would help you to live with a greater sense of gratitude in your life?

For Parish group discussion, family or personal use.

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

“Prayer is as much dependent upon reading the newspaper and participating in the struggles and agonies of life as it is upon its traditional resources [such as the Bible]” (John de Gruchy, Cry Justice! Prayers, meditations and readings from South Africa)

“When we come together to pray we rightly pray ‘beyond ourselves’ – placing ourselves within a vision of a different world, and so making ourselves part of the process that will bring those promises about.  And we place ourselves, with our sisters and brothers, within the hands of God – not merely in our own desperate strivings.” (Janet Morely (ed), Bread of Tomorrow)

Consider the following questions:

  1. What do you pray about?
  2. What information guides you in praying for people and events in the world?
  3. How could you be more systematic in praying for the needs of the world?

Session Four: Theme for the week  “The nature of prayer”

In the 1990’s I worked at the Anglican Church in Hillcrest.  At that time the property was jointly owned by the Anglican and Methodist Churches.  On a Sunday morning the Anglicans held their service in the church first followed by the Methodists.

The Methodist Minister was called Neil Oosthusizen.  I remember the story of when he first arrived at the church to take his first service.  He arrived on a motor bike and when he parked outside the church entrance he was told to move as that parking place was reserved for the minister.  He said he was the minister.  He walked up to the front of the congregation and took off his helmet – his long hair surprised many in the congregation.  He became well liked and is the person who started the Hillcrest Aids Centre, one of the first church based responses to HIV/AIDS.

He offered a course on prayer and published a booklet on it called: ‘Snuggling on the Lap of God: A practical journey in prayer.  I refer to some of the things he said.

Last week I spoke about the value someone placed on the Anglican liturgy and the set prayers of the church.  Well, Neil said the following:  “I have come from a tradition where to pray out of a book is almost cheating…you need to pray from the heart not a book!…Do not be afraid to use the prayers of others … if they are saying what is on your heart.”

Neil spoke about the value of the use of scripture in prayer.

“Spend time with scripture…think through it…what does it really mean to you…what does it reveal about God…about yourself…. [If it is a gospel] Meditate, become part of the story…experience Jesus… touching… healing… making whole!”

The well known writer on prayer, Joyce Huggett, writes of Jesus’s prayer and scripture.  “As we do what the disciples did: observe Jesus at prayer, it becomes obvious that his prayer life was saturated with the revealed Word of God – the Old Testament. Jesus leaned on this written Word for his authority, so trusting in it he hurled at Satan whenever the tempter tried to dissuade him from walking God’s way. He was so steeped in it that, whenever he was praying spontaneously as he walked the Galilean hills or whether he was screaming with pain, it was words of scripture that flowed from his lips.” (Joyce Huggett, “Praying with the New Testament”)  Lectio Divina was an ancient practice that was first established as a monastic practice in 6th century by St Benedict.  It is a prayerful way of reading Bible passages.

I’ve returned from time to time to the struggles people sometimes have in prayer.  We ask later about “unanswered prayer.”  A former bishop of this Diocese, Michael Nuttall, writes the following in this respect:  “For most of us, if not all, of us the well runs dry sometimes.  It can remain for a long time.  The explanation of this can vary; sometimes there is no obvious explanation. We should be very careful about assuming that we know the reason, especially when the dryness belongs to others.  It could arise from something in our own human circumstances, or it could arise from God who may be allowing “a dark night” for the deepening of our faith.  One of the holiest priests I have known lived and ministered in spiritual darkness for many years.  The humility and faithfulness of it were very moving.” (Bishop Michael Nuttall, Prayerfulness in the Spirit)

There is a sense in which prayer may not remove the difficulties we face but helps us put up with and bear the difficulties.

I talk about the experience of Dorothy Day, a lay Roman Catholic in the States who started the Catholic Worker movement.  I have taken it from the book by Sr Sue Rakoczy called Great Mystics and Social Justice: Walking on the Two Feet of Love.

After a march against poverty in Washington DC during the Depression, Dorothy prayed a prayer of desperation and entreaty: “There I offered up a special prayer, a prayer which came with tears and anguish, that some way would open up for me to use what talents I possessed for my fellows workers, for the poor.” When she returned to New York, Peter Maurin was waiting for her at her apartment.  Her true call in life was about to unfold.

With Peter, Dorothy was to form the Catholic Worker movement which fed the poor and clothed them and opened houses of hospitality.  Dorothy was a writer and organiser.  She was committed to pacifism her whole life, including during World War II. During her life she protested against various injustices and spent time in prison.

She made regular retreats.  She wrote that without them, “I could never have ensured the sufferings involved, could never have persevered. Prayer gave me strength and courage…. I  [] must nourish myself to do the work I have undertaken: I too must drink at these good springs so that I may not be an empty cistern and unable to help others.”

Another description of her prayer life: “Sometimes I prayed with joy and delight.  Other times each bead of my rosary was as heavy as lead, my legs dragged, my limbs were numb. I felt a dead weight.  I could do nothing but make an act of will and set or kneel, and sigh in an agony of boredom.”

Finally, it was said that everything in her life flowed from love and spoke of love.  “We cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love we must know each other….there is nothing we can do for people except to love them. The most important thing is love..We pray for love. We get it.”

For Parish group discussion, family or personal use.

Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, “Grant me justice against my opponent.” For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.”’ And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’ (Luke 18:1-8)

“[I]f  prayer is about demanding justice and working for justice then “praying always” makes all the sense in the world. Justice and the quest for justice seize our lives and dictate our values and work, our allies and enemies, our struggle and our learning all our lives long.” (Matthew Fox)

“I get the impression that many believers think of prayers as adult letters to Santa Claus.” (Bishop John Spong, A New Christianity for a New World: Why Traditional Faith is Dying & How A New Faith is Being Born)

Consider the following questions:

  1. What is the connection in this parable between prayer and justice?
  2. Can prayer ever be seen as “controlling and manipulating” God?
  3. How do you make sense of prayers that are “not answered”?
  4. Have you grown in your practice of meditative and contemplative prayer?

Session Five: Theme for the week  “Continuing the Journey”

I was interested to note the imagery used from one of our readings last week and was going to pick up on it, but mention it now.

In Isaiah 49 verse 15 we have the following:

Can a woman forget her nursing-child,
or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.

As elsewhere in the Bible so to here we have feminine imagery used in referring to God; God is being imagined as a mother with a child.

The image we have of God affects the way we pray.  The Bible presents a whole range of images for God.  And people develop their own images: some people relate to God as spirit, light, wind, warmth, breath or an embracing love.

It is good to expand our images of God, this can help with our spiritual growth.

The concerns around feminine and masculine imagery for God are important.  As in life we can relate to men and women in different ways so too with God.   We can grow up with an untrustworthy, absentee, authoritarian, critical or abusive father, for example, and this in turn can influence our relationship with God if God is viewed primarily as a father.

We can imagine an ideal father or turn to God as mother or sister or friend and connect with God the good things we have experienced in one of these relationships.  An image of God who is loving and forgiving, tender and nurturing, can help us.

Thinking of God as feminine could also give men greater respect for women and what they contribute to the world and enable them to embrace their feminine side

We need to be aware that God is beyond all that we can know; but our aim is to know God better and to relate to God with a fuller sense of who God is.

I want to share the experiences and writings on prayer by Bishop John Spong, formerly episcopal bishop in the Diocese of Newark.  He was a bishop of that Diocese for 24 years and retired in 2000.

Firstly, let me start with how he described himself:  “I pray daily.  I pray as one who believes that God is real.”

He presents views that challenge some of our traditional understandings of God.  His concern is to understand prayer in a modern scientific age.

He also picks up on the image we have of God when we prayer.    He tries to get to the essence of prayer.   He points us to look inward, within ourselves, as we grapple with the true meaning of prayer.

Spong challenges a common view of seeing God as being out there in the sky as someone who we appeal to to come to our aid, to intervene in the events of our lives and the world.  He sees this view as a way of trying to exercise control over areas that we have little control over.

He prefers what he calls “a theological perspective that affirms God’s power present at the centre of our lives – a power that calls us more deeply into the mystery of Being and into a fuller humanity!”

He goes on: “Would we do better to seek from within ourselves a God-presence that would enable us to embrace the fragility of our humanity and to step boldly into the experience of living fully, loving wastefully, and entering courageously into the depths of being.”  He emphasises the God within rather than the God who comes to our aid to rescue us. The creation of community, of helping one another, of sharing one another’s burdens is what is important to him and is what can make a real difference in our lives as we offer our needs to God in prayer.

Bishop Spong writes about his time in the morning in which he prepares for the day – his prayers, reading and quietness.  However, in explaining his understanding of prayer he offers a clearer vision of what he sees prayer as being:  “My actions, my engagement with people, the facing of concrete issues  – all these  become for me the real time of prayer.  My prayer came to be identified with my living, my loving, my being, my meeting, my confronting, my struggles for justice, my desire to be an agent of the world’s transformation.  That is where I met and communed with God.  God was no longer found for me in the quiet places of retreat; now God was in the hurly-burley of a busy and sometimes troubling life.  God was found no longer in the stable rocks but in the rushing rapids.

If prayer is the act of engaging God and if God is the source of life, then my prayer time became my time of engaging life.”

For him prayer is living life:   “Prayer became for me the way I lived, loved, and struggled, the way I dared to be….Prayer for me is living.”

For Spong the effect of prayer on himself is significant, in that he affirms that “the power of prayer is very clear in the profound way that my times of meditation and contemplation have in fact, changed me.  They have helped me to face more honestly who I am and how I impact others.”

His approach may be summed up as follows: “My goal in life is to pray without ceasing, which means that I seek to be a God-presence in every relationship I enter.”

For Parish group discussion, family or personal use.

“Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:18.

“Prayer is not a way of being busy with God instead of with people.  In fact, it unmasks the illusion of busyness, usefulness, and undispensibility.  It is a way of being empty and useless in the presence of God and so of proclaiming our basic belief that all is grace and nothing is simply the result of hard work.

It is from the still point of prayer that we can reach out to others and let the sustaining power of God’s presence be known.”  (Henri Nouwen, The Living Reminder)

“Prayer is the act of reclaiming our identity as the children of God; it declares who we are and to whom we belong.  The action of prayer takes us outside the realm of the powers and principalities.  As prayer declares our true identity so it destroys our false identities.  In prayer we act upon who we really are and thus prayer has the effect of diminishing the illusions that have controlled us.  It is therefore an act of revealing the truth and unmasking the lie.  Prayer allows us to step out of our traps and find ourselves again in prayer.”  (Jim Wallis, The Call to Conversion)

Consider the following questions:

  1. What does prayer mean for you?
  2. Over this Lenten season what have you learnt about prayer?
  1. What next steps can you take to deepen your understanding and practice of prayer?