This week we are having a go at praying. Many of the great Christian mystics such as Theresa of Avila, Francis of Assisi, Julian of Norwich spent hours of their time in prayer. Prayer changes our hearts and minds, it re-orientates us to see God’s heart, and sets our hearts on fire for the things of Jesus. But it can feel boring, tedious, and a not an effective use of our time. This week we are going to offer some practical tips on prayer. You might be an almighty prayer warrior who spends hours on your knees, or someone who is completely new to this idea. Either way hopefully there is something new for you to have a go at in this week’s spiritual discipline…..
An extract from Richard Fosters ‘Spiritual Disciplines’
‘Prayer catapults us on to the frontier of the spiritual life. Of all the spiritual discipline prayer is the most central because it ushers us into perceptual communion with the Father. Meditation introduces us to the inner life, fasting is an accompanying means, study transfers our minds, but it is the Discipline of prayer that brings us into the deepest and highest work of the human Spirit. Real prayer is life creating and life changing.
‘Prayer- secret, fervent, believing prayer-lies at the root of all personal Godliness’ writes William Carey.
To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us. If we are unwilling to change, we will abandon prayer as a noticeable characteristic of our lives. The closer we come to the heartbeat of God the more we see our need and the more we desire to be conformed to Christ. William Blake tells us that our ask in life is to learn to bear God’s ‘beams of love.’ How often we fashion cloaks of evasion-beam-proof shelters-in order to elude our Eternal Lover. But when we pray, God slowly and graciously reveals to us our evasive actions and sets us free from them’
Top tips for trying out this week….
Tip one. Try setting your morning alarm a little earlier (10 minutes should do it). Use this time to pray. If you struggle to structure your prayer why not read a psalm, there are 150 to choose from, one of our favourites is Psalm 139. Find a warm a comfortable spot and ask Jesus to be close to you. Don’t worry if you don’t feel any different at first. Why not try and do this every day and see what happens?
Tip two. Say a prayer before the end of the day. There is an ancient Ignatian practice called the Examen. Find a few moments near the end of the day, think back over the day that you’ve just had. See if you can spot moments where God was near, or maybe moments where you feel that God was far away. Become aware of God’s presence with you, review your day with gratitude, become aware of your emotions. Choose one feature from your day and pray for it. Look forward to tomorrow.
Tip three. Try praying during the day. Consciously become aware that God may be present with you during your normal day at work, at school, or at home. Make time to speak to Him during normal day-to-day activities. For example thank him for the blue sky as you walk home, or invite his presence into a difficult work meeting.
Tip four. Try joining in with a prayer meeting. We have many small groups running in our community and new comers are always welcome. It’s a great way to learn how to pray, by watching and praying with others.
Tip five. Find yourself a prayer buddy or buddies. Praying alongside others can be a real encouragement. Why not ask a friend to pray with you once a week/twice a week/monthly.
Tip six. Set aside a prayer space in your home, a place allocated for intimacy with God. Perhaps light a candle while you are praying as a physical symbol of your prayer.
Tip seven. Try praying with Scripture. Some people find it really helpful to use passages from the bible to structure their prayers. Praying Scripture is using God’s words to pray back to him. Why not pick one of your favourites? We particularly like passages that speak of who Jesus is like John 3:16