The Apostle Paul gave us some great advice in 1 Thessalonians 5: 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
There is nothing better we can do then to persist and grow in prayer. This is especially true in uncertain times when communities of faith must seek the help and guidance of God as we navigate our way through a changing world. But what a powerful tool we have in prayer!
Prayer is most often a private devotion each one of us does in our own way.
I love hearing from people about the different ways they like to pray. Some sit in the quiet with their Bible and have a routine of prayer. Others sense the awesomeness of God in nature. Labyrinths have been a great way to help some walk their prayers. Some people like to use online prayer resources of which there are many. Still others use art to express themselves in prayer. There can be prayer in wordless contemplation or in vivid imagination.
There are no limits to prayer. When sharing the different ways we like to pray we can encourage one another to find new energy for our personal devotion.
But it is also important for us to pray together. In our Churches we pray liturgically which is very important to us. The beautiful written prayers of our liturgies and music help us express essential truths. But we are in a time when it is important for us in our communities to pray without ceasing together – and that is more than a liturgical function.
In her charge to Synod this year, Bishop Mary set us this task:
“This year I want to invite everyone to join me in a year of spiritual renewal, of intentional discipleship, of deepening our commitment to Christ, and of discerning ways to reach out into God’s world in his love. I want to challenge everyone to take on one spiritual renewal activity in your parish – and invite me to attend!
When we think of all the different ways to renew our Churches, the foundation of everything is spiritual renewal. For the core of who we are as people of faith is the Lord Jesus Christ and he is our vitality and our hope. But what a great hope! If Jesus is alive and is the head of the Church, then the most life-giving thing we can do is press into him and seek his presence. We do that in prayer, meditation and reflection.”
For this reason, w are launching a prayer initiative: 101 Ways to Pray: A Year of Spiritual Renewal.
The purpose of this is to encourage all of us to pray frequently together and find new spiritual energy in the many ways of prayer.
We are asking you to do a couple of things. First, set aside time in your church’s schedule to explore prayer and spiritual vitality. Explore many ways to pray, reflect and meditate and find out what works best for your church. And then: tell us about it. We can encourage each other by sharing the different ways prayer works for us. We will be telling you more about how you can share your stories as the fall progresses.
There are endless ways to foster prayer and reflection in your church that are non-threatening and easy to do.
- Lectio is a simple way to share the scriptures with simple questions that help draw out the meaning of the text for everyone. It comes from the Benedictine tradition.
- Praying imaginatively comes from the Ignatian tradition and is a way you can use your mind to enter vividly into the story of Scripture. Several diocesan spiritual directors are well trained in this practise (and much else besides).
- Praying with images comes from the Orthodox tradition and is a way to centre your reflection on an icon or image that you find helpful.
- Many of us find using a piece of music is a way to open our hearts to the prayer. It can be anything from a piece of classical music to a praise chorus.
- One of my new favourite practises is Doodle Prayer which is deceptively simple. Sitting with some paper and a pen or two, just pray and then doodle your prayer needs. Its easy and fun to do as a group or on your own.
- We strongly encourage parishes to practice prayer walking in their neighbourhoods. Just walk around where you are and ask God to show you who your neighbours are and how God wants you to serve them.
Prayer with Bishop Mary has also been a powerful way for us to gather in prayer. We have done this as a clergy group and at St Paul’s Greenfield Park. It is an opportunity to have some time to worship and for Bishop Mary to anoint those who wish with holy oil. We could love to come to your church, if you are interested. Many people have already been blessed by Bishop Mary’s prayers.
Let’s take St Paul’s advice and Bishop Mary’s exhortation to focus on prayer and spiritual vitality together as people of faith. Whatever you decide to do, get together as a community and figure out a way to pray without ceasing. Pray as if the life of the Church depends upon it, because it does!