As those of you who come along to Family Praise will witness, my approach to prayer is not always conventional – I’ve used paper plates, bounced tennis balls, shouted, used different voices, threaded beads and thrown around balloons. In my own prayer life, I have ‘chats’ with God, sometimes I rant at him, I love praising him – but quiet, regular, devotional prayer is a struggle for me– so I was very interested in the recent ‘Teaching on Prayer’.
The first week, Alan spoke about the ‘Occasional Offices’ – these were new to me and seemed quite formal. Yet participating made me feel part of something bigger and there was an awareness of something ancient. It would not be something I personally would use regularly on my own, but I can appreciate that the formality will appeal to others.
The second week was much more up my street. Ignatian Prayer – in my very simple terms, reading a story from the Bible and then using your imagination to put yourself into that place and seeing what meaning or message you are given. It needs practice, but it is definitely something I will try again.
I feel God gives us our bodies and we prayer can be physical. In my younger days I was really self conscious and hated doing anything where I might look silly. Leading Family Praise cured me of that and now some of my favourite hymns are ones with actions. I even get the urge to wave my hands about during the main service – but restrain myself. So maybe it was not surprising that the session on Body Prayer was my favourite. There are set movements for different times of the Church year and we went through ‘Letting Go and Being Set Free’, which is for Confession and Absolution. The movements for the Lord’s Prayer added a dimension I had not known before and I have continued to use them sometimes.
Next came the session on Christian Meditation. There are many different types, but we were introduced to the John Main tradition. For those who have tried meditation, maybe as part of a yoga class, this was fairly familiar as it has its origin in those traditions. The intention is to push aside all the clutter in your mind. I found that fifteen minutes of silent meditation went amazingly quickly, but at the moment I’m not ready to do this unsupported. I would be interested to explore other types of Christian meditation though.
The final evening was about ‘Journaling’. We were encouraged to think about it as writing a letter to God, remembering how special it is to receive a handwritten letter. We tried it out and I enjoyed the experience – to do it regularly will take some discipline but I’m going to try.
I really enjoyed the five sessions. It just shows that prayer can be very diverse and not everyone has to communicate with God in the same way. For me, it opened up new ways of praying. Personally, I think God really doesn’t mind how we pray, all He wants is for us to spend time with Him.
artwork by Alison Ridgeon