Tag Archives: Prayer

Do you like the Book of Common Prayer?

Join us in worship this Sunday Evening at 5pm on Facebook or via our online services page for a service of Book of Common Prayer (BCP) Evening Prayer.

It is a service in Traditional Language and with readings from the King James Version of the Bible. Even if you have never experienced  it before it might be something you enjoy. Below is the story of my journey with the BCP, from an article I wrote in the magazine a while back:

When I was a curate, I was in a benefice of seven rural churches. All of them had BCP services regularly, some of them only had BCP services. For my first year of curacy I was ordained deacon, which meant I couldn’t take Communion services. Consequently, each Sunday I would take BCP Matins and Evensong, it was rare for me to attend a modern language service. After I was ordained priest, I added in the 8 O’clock BCP Communion services, but it was still fairly rare for me to do a modern language Communion Service throughout the rest of my curacy – there weren’t all that may of them in the Benefice and my Training Incumbent liked doing them!

My curacy was my very first introduction to BCP. I became a Christian in 1984 and by then it was the Alternative Service Book (ASB) in churches, I had no idea that BCP had ever existed. Being immersed in the strange world of BCP was a fascinating experience.

I must stop at this point and confess that I am nostalgic in the extreme – it is one of my many faults. I love old buildings and their sense of heritage and history. I resist changes sometimes because of this, I have a strange longing for the past, a desire to cling onto it. I wonder whether it is because I grew up without any roots, always moving schools and countries. I longed for things of ‘home’ – English drizzle and red London buses and custard creams… I was hardly ever in the country and whenever I did arrive back in England things had changed and I didn’t like it.

Anyway, needless to say I loved the BCP, I loved the poetry of the language, I was charmed by the way that words have changed their meaning, and I enjoyed using those words with their old meaning. I found particular words and phrases incredibly challenging or comforting or meaningful – they pulled me into the presence of God. I loved the way that words were paired together like peace and concord, celebrating the depth and range of our language and behind that the diversity of all the peoples with their languages over many centuries who have come together to make our complex and many faceted nation. The repetition was also helpful – saying almost exactly the same thing each week meant that I could experience the same words that had so blessed me the previous week and I found that those words continued to bless me from then on, week in and week out.

Alan and I have tried to recreate something of this in the online service. It isn’t all that easy to do, please let us know whether you value this.

Holy Week

During Holy Week this year you might like to watch one of these.  The first link starts a new tab in your browser in full screen, the pictures play as they are.

In addition we will be posting services at 6:00pm Mon-Thur evenings.

Mon-Wed they will be Compline, with a meditation and silence.

Thursday it will be similar to a Sunday post.

We will also post at 9:00 and 12:00 on Good Friday and 6:00 on Holy Saturday and 9:00 on Easter Day.

Jesus of Nazareth

This is six hours long, but with YouTube you can remember where you stopped and then go forwards to that point.


BBC’s The Passion

First broadcast a few years ago, it is in two parts, both around one hour 15 minutes.



Here are someone else’s ideas for Holy Week: https://www.pickingapplesofgold.com/holy-week-reflections-resource

Also, you might like to do something creative; I would like to put up a collection of other material from yourselves. I have already received a poem and some photos of nature. If you would like to write something, make something, photograph or video something you have made and send it to me please do. Instructions on how to get it to me can be found here: https://badshotleaandhale.org/2020/03/29/future-services/

Launde Abbey are offering a free online Holy Week Retreat.  Details here: https://laundeabbey.org.uk/laundeathome/holy-week-2020/

Graham Everness from St Paul’s, Dorking, has put together the following material for Holy Week: Mark These Words 1-8.

There is also a challenge for Holy Week below; a simple framework which should take you just seven minutes in each of these seven days. It comes from the Diocese of Guildford’s Lent course and you can find details of the Gospel readings and the challenges for each day. Click here.

  • Light a candle and, next to it, place the object suggested as a symbol of your own journey to the cross. Many of us continue to light a candle in our windows at 7pm. You might do it at the same time – or 7am if that suits you better!
  • Read the relevant text from Matthew’s Gospel.
  • Be still. In Psalm 4, the psalmist prayed ‘stand in awe and sin not: commune with your own heart within your chamber and be still’.
  • Be challenged. There is a little practical challenge each day.

Wintershall will be livestreaming through their Facebook page at 12 and 3pm on Good Friday. You do not have to be a Facebook member to see it, it is open to everyone. It includes pre-recorded clips of rehearsals from their Passion Play 2020, clips and interviews from the other cities and towns taking part in the One Good Friday 2020 project.

Prayer – what is the point?

Yesterday we came across a blog post by Jonathan Clatworthy who writes on God, philosophy, theology and ethics, and it was so useful we wanted to share it. You can find the original here at

but to save you the effort of clicking, here it is below (but do click on his website; there are plenty of other great posts too).

Is there any point in praying?

I actually believe in praying, but not for the reasons many people give. The Christian tradition offers different, and often conflicting, accounts of how to do it and what to expect from it.

This post offers my way of trying to make sense of it.

Can it ‘work’?

At its most basic, praying is what people do when they are desperate. At the beginning of the Second World War, everybody prayed. Even atheists prayed. If there is anyone up there, please please please!

To ask whether it works is to look for evidence. Some researchers ask people what they prayed for and whether it happened. These studies can produce interesting results, but they don’t prove anything.

Others say the opposite: praying can’t work because it’s mumbo-jumbo. Superstition. Unscientific. This is equally unprovable. It’s an echo of that nineteenth-century fantasy that scientists were going to find out everything about everything. If they did, it would follow that anything scientists couldn’t establish doesn’t exist. It’s over a century since scientists believed this. What they have shown is that the universe is far more complex than the human mind can understand. We’ve increased what we know, but what we don’t know has increased much faster. For all we know there may be any number of processes that our thoughts and prayers may trigger. We can’t prove anything, and perhaps that’s just as well.

In any case asking whether prayer ‘works’ is only looking at prayer at its most basic. It’s the prayer of the self-centred, knowing what they want. When we are self-centred, we can still pray. We can start with what we want, and ask God to let us have it. Sometimes we get what we want, even if we would have been better advised to want something different.

Relating to reality

Prayer is about relating to the wider reality, the big context of our lives. Christians call it ‘God’. For some people the word ‘God’ conjures up unhelpful images, but we are all aware that we live our lives in the context of a reality that is mostly way beyond our understanding.

Within the Bible and the Christian tradition, let alone outside it, people have imagined God in very different ways. For example, if we think of God as someone who punishes sinners, our praying will be about pleasing God so that we don’t get punished. If we think of God as a fighter attacking enemies, our praying will be about being on God’s side against the enemies.

In these cases our praying will really still be self-centred, wanting to be on the right side of God. These are examples of unhelpful images.

Prayer becomes more constructive when we adopt more constructive images – when we trust that the forces maintaining the universe, whether or not we call them ‘God’, are well-disposed towards us and want the best for us. This is the basis on which most faith traditions encourage forms of prayer that help us let go of our self-centredness. The aim is to reflect on the ‘big picture’ so as to expand our range of concerns beyond our individual selves, towards a ‘God’s-eye-view’ of reality.


From this perspective, prayer naturally begins with celebrating what we have received. A classic biblical way of putting it is that God has designed us to bless us, so that we flourish. God wants us to live fulfilled and happy lives, and wants everybody else to as well.

An easy way in to praying is to offer thanks for what we have got. Many people say grace at meal times. When you give birth to a baby, you feel thankful. At a funeral of a friend you feel thankful for that person’s life. Some people develop the practice of saying a quick ‘thank you’ to God through the day, whenever something happens that they are glad of. It means that, instead of focusing on what we haven’t got, we focus on what we already have, and express appreciation.

General intercession

There is also a lot that goes wrong. Humans can work towards the common good, but by nature we are also self-centred. We have been given freedom, if we so choose, to only care for ourselves at the expense of other people, or only care for our family at the expense of other families, or only care for our country at the expense of other countries, or only care for humanity at the expense of the environment.

So when we pray about the Amazon rain forest being burnt, or refugees looking for somewhere to live, we can take for granted our own point of view; but we can instead reflect on what God’s point of view might be like.

When we take for granted our own point of view, we can easily imagine we know what God should do. It’s as though we are treating God like a washing machine that doesn’t always work. We know what ought to happen: why doesn’t it? It’s as though we’ve got the intelligence and God has got the power.

Actually it’s the other way round: God has the intelligence and knows what needs to be done, but has given power away to us humans. So when things go wrong God could put aside the laws of nature, blitz the world and put things back the way they were. But that would mean taking away the freedom we have been given for our own good.

However much we might wish God intervened for us, we never see the whole picture. When we try to see it from God’s point of view, we ask ourselves: what would God want? Can we help?

Intercession for ourselves

When we’ve been personally hurt by other people – say, we’ve been injured by someone driving dangerously, or we’ve been sacked from work and have no money – our first thought might be to pray for God to put right what has gone wrong. We might want God to punish the other person.

When people hurt us, we naturally resent it. To pray well, we can spend time noticing our resentment, noticing that our resentment hurts us and doesn’t do any good, and allowing ourselves to distance ourselves from our negative feelings. We may not be able to put right what went wrong, but we can gradually practise the art of detaching ourselves from the feelings that distress us. It’s hard, but it can relieve us of emotional burdens.

So one aspect of praying is to allow time for God to show us what we would want if we saw the world through God’s eyes – inviting God to guide us in our wanting.


Just as other people hurt us, we also hurt others. We all mess up sometimes. Another part of praying is facing up to the faults in ourselves.

There is no point in just feeling guilty and miserable. The point is to be practical. We can change our own actions more easily than we can change anyone else’s. Our praying can reflect on what we can do about it. Sometimes we can put right something we’ve made a mess of, or give someone an apology. Sometimes it’s more a matter of recognising a habit in ourselves that we need to practise getting out of.


Many mystics tell us that prayer at its best goes beyond all these, and lets go of all every agenda to just spend time with God. It’s a bit like spending time with someone you love deeply. You may talk to each other, but what you say is less important than just being with them.

Personally, I’m no good at it. In fact I’m no good at praying at all. But I can see the point. At its best, praying helps us expand our awareness away from the individual self-centredness that comes so easily, towards a God’s-eye-view and the common good.