How do we get in touch with God, and He with us? Through prayer. Prayer can take a variety of forms. When we gather as the church, we do so to pray, in solidarity with one another. We can pray in large or small groups, or on our own. In this passage from St Matthew’s Gospel, we learn that prayer is never for show – and then we are introduced to the prayer on the video clip, the most famous prayer of all – The Lord’s Prayer. Jesus said,
“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Matthew 6.5-15 (NRSV)
Prayer can focus on praising and giving glory to God. In prayer we can also ask God for things – to make our paths clearer when we have decisions to make, to commend someone to his care who is in trouble, or sick, or dying. We can examine our lives in prayer before God, asking his forgiveness for our sins. We can thank him, for the many joys and blessings which his grace has given to us. In prayer, God the Holy Spirit helps us to pray as we should. In his mighty letter to the Church in Rome, St Paul wrote
The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Romans 8.26-27 (NRSV)
Prayer is from the heart, to the heart. Sometimes it uses words. At other times it does not, flourishing in a silent space.
Some can pray anywhere, even amidst the hustle and bustle of daily living; but all should try to find spaces to pray, so that we are not just praying ‘while doing something else’. That would be like taking a phone out and texting someone while trying to hold a face-to face conversation! Fruitful prayer is time without outside distraction, like time spent with a beloved one. Then there are the wonderful Daily Prayers of the whole church in which we can join by celebrating what are known as the ‘Offices’ of the Church. Below you will find links to two resources: The classic, beautiful words of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the more contemporary Church of England offices from ‘Daily Prayer’: and finally, the Divine Office of the Western Church which offers a greater number of offices throughout the day.
The more time and effort we devote to prayer, the deeper the work of the Holy Spirit goes in ourselves, and the more we are making ourselves available for the work of God. Prayer transforms our lives, especially if we are conscious of carving out space for prayer in an otherwise busy daily routine. If we can find partners, or groups of people, who devote time to prayer together, we can find great encouragement in our desire to pray better.