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.
God, the Father watches us all everywhere. (Photo credit: angelofsweetbitter2009)
This is one of the most compelling lines in poetry that I have ever read. And as much as I believe in a loving and personal God, I also believe that this is true; at the end of the day it is us who have to make the decisions and who have to do – something, anything. God helps us and strengthens us but it is left to us to finish the job. Sometimes I ask myself why that is so; as everyone who looks at the world can see, that we are continuously making the wrong decisions. So why would God let us, why would he let us ruin everything? The answer is complicated and faceted and, I guess, there is not one right answer to begin with. For me, at least, it comes down to this: If we don’t have the freedom to make mistakes, even if they are terrible and if we don’t have the freedom to have to live with the consequences of those mistakes – and I am talking about both societal and personal mistakes – then how exactly are we supposed to learn anything? How are we supposed to develop, to grow, to achieve any kind of progress – again, both on a personal and a societal level? So what God is actually doing, is that he, like any good parent, has decided to let us out of the children’s safe place into the adult world and now we have to cope with it. He is still there to help us, to guide us, to support us. But he also knows, if we are to achieve anything at all, he must leave us our space. And this is where we all, every single one of us and every nation or culture or religion, are the masters of our own fate.
Here is, how this doesn’t work at all: What happens, when someone else makes a bad decision, and I am the one being hurt or badly affected? Maybe that guy doesn’t even know what he is doing or it looks like he profits from the misery of others. Is that really helping either one to grow? I don’t know what to say to that. Any thoughts?