Prayer is the ground on which my relationship with God stands. As I said before, my praying has evolved slowly, and the more I pray, the more I want to and the more I need to. Of course this has not happened over night but over years.
In 2010 I started praying intermittently, feeling slightly foolish when I was praying. I had never truly prayed by myself before and it was a very new experience. It felt like I was saying these (often not very meaningful words) into thin air and there they just vanished. I had a few good experiences, too, when God’s presence was very tangible and his comfort and support manifest in the words I was reading. And so I realised, that it helped me be at peace to talk to God and I prayed more regularly. Eventually I designed my own daily prayer with a psalm being read in the morning and two readings from OT and NT in the evening. The Daily Office provided by the CoE was too stuffy and structured – and also too long! – for me at the time.
In 2013 I also started a prayer diary, after our chaplain suggested it in one of his sermons (see, some people really do listen!). Writing down my prayers helps me to focus and think about what is important for me at the time. It helps to make my prayer seem more real and shows me when God answers my prayers. Also, it gives me a way to trace how oftyen and how regular I pray. If I miss a day or two, I ask myself why and try to not let that same reason divide me from God again.
Around November 2013 I discovered “Time to Pray” on Amazon and I feel using it gives me the structure and routine I need while leaving me with the free space to make the prayer a time I can open up to God and his word. It is based on the Daily Office but I use it creatively, with my own Bible readings and reflections. Sometimes I ignore it and just talk to God. mostly though, it is very helpful to have a framework on which to base my prayers. Praying daily has helped deepen my relationship with God and reach a new level of commitment. At the beginning prayer was very much a chore I had put on myself, now it is something that I look forward to.
How do you pray, I get asked – by friends and also (more scary) as part of my application form by the DDO. I can of course describe the structure of the prayers I say in the morning and evening (basically an adapted version of the daily office). But does this really answer the question?
Actually that’s exactly what I wrote on the application form. But to my freind I said something very different. I pray, I said, using a structured prayer every morning and evening. This I do every day. Sometimes, I feel God there with me and sometimes I don’t. I use the structure to guide me in what I want to say. So there is me saying that I am sorry, thanking and praising God for the day and then, of course all the pleas and requests. I use beautiful language that has been passed down for centuries and even millenia. I use modern language that really hits the meaning I want to convey. I use my own words to express my feelings.
But this is just a little part of my praying. because throughout the day I will also say little prayers of thanks and little requests as they come up. So when an ambulance goes by, I ask God to be with those they are helping. When I receive good news, I thank God. At mealtimes I say grace (silently if I am with others who don’t).
It is the combination of both, I told my friend, that really makes the difference in my relationship with God. Prayer is something that becomes more meaningful the more you do it. As your relationship with God grows, so does your need to communicate with him. And now, prayer is something I just do, without even thinking about it. And my life is so much richer because of it.
The Bible being the founding document of Christianity, it is of course immensely important to Christians the world over and the foundation of most of the doctrines the different strains of Christianity have developed (although they would say all of them, I can’t agree because some clearly are not). But how important is it to me personally and how much does my faith benefit from reading it? I am in two minds when it comes to the Bible because unlike many others I don’t see it as the document of Final Truth and I certainly don’t believe that everything in it is pure fact.
Almost a year ago I decided to read the whole Bible which I had never done before and I only finished a few weeks ago. While it opened my eyes to many beautiful and inspiring passages that no doubt are very rewarding spiritually, there are also many passages that made me shake my head in disbelief and even disgust occasionally.
Since then, I have been given a King James Version for my birthday and in the back there is a Bible reading schedule to finish it in just two years including reading the New Testament and Psalms twice. I decided to incorporate these readings in my daily prayers, but now I am not so sure that was a good idea. I am in 1 Samuel right now and Saul has just been thrown from God’s good graces because (and here it is) he would not completely kill everyone and everything of the Amalekites. Because Saul doesn’t commit genocide, or rather complete the genocide (and yes he doesn’t because he wants to keep their cattle) God becomes angry. As you can imagine, reading this kind of ruined my prayer time because it made me angry. I like to use those readings to come up with some rule or moral but this one I could not take anything away from. So now I am wondering whether maybe I should keep to the passages and books that I know I liked, or found useful in some way, and just ignore the rest? But, on the other hand, wouldn’t that be cheating? I think, for the time being I will continue reading it all and try not to get worked up too much but I know there are some triggers I will not be able to withstand. Another thing to pray for, I guess.