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Thought for the month, ‘Prayer, the transforming friendship’

Article posted on 7 June 2018 Leave a Comment

The story is told of eleven-year-old Robert who hadn’t done his homework and wasn’t at all prepared for his written test in geography. He struggled through the exam, doing a lot more guessing than he should have. That evening he began to worry. What if too many of the answers had been wrong? What if he failed the test? That night, as he said his prayers, he suddenly blurted out a nervous postscript: ‘And please God, make Paris the capital of Sweden.’

Sometimes our prayers can be rather like this – we want results from God; we want God to sort things out for us and for others, and so although we know it is ridiculous to pray for Paris to become the capital of Sweden, we can easily slip into this kind of praying.

But perhaps prayer at its deepest is not so much about getting God to change his mind but allowing God to change ours. Perhaps prayer is simply about allowing God into our lives, responding to God’s love, forgiveness, guidance…

Seen like this, prayer is a relationship, and the practise of prayer is just about setting aside time and space to keep company with God, to deliberately open ourselves up to the possibility of God’s presence with us. This can be done walking in the woods, sitting in the garden, enjoying the sacred space of a church building – there are no special requirements, other than the need to find a little bit of peace and quiet. Words aren’t even necessary; we can simply ask God to be with us, and to inspire the thoughts of our hearts. Archbishop Rowan Williams uses the analogy of sunbathing – ‘prayer’, he says, ‘is like simply lying in the sun and allowing the light to get to us.’

I love this story told by Richard Foster in Prayer – Finding the Heart’s True Home:

‘One day a friend of mine was walking through a shopping centre with his two-year-old son. The child was in a particularly cantankerous mood, fussing and fuming. The frustrated father tried everything to quiet his son, but nothing seemed to help. Then, under some kind of special inspiration, the father scooped up his son and, holding him close to his chest, began singing an impromptu love song. None of the words rhymed. He sang off key. And yet, as best he could, this father began sharing his heart. ‘I love you,’ he sang. ‘I’m so glad you’re my boy. You make me happy. I like the way you laugh.’ On they went from one shop to the next. Quietly the father continued singing off key and making up words that did not rhyme. The child relaxed and became still, listening to this strange and wonderful song. Finally, they finished shopping and went to the car. As the father opened the door and prepared to buckle his son into the car seat, the child lifted his head and said simply, ‘sing it to me again, Daddy! Sing it to me again.’

Prayer is a little like that. With simplicity of heart we allow ourselves to be gathered up into the arms of the Father and let him sing his love song over us.


Revd Becky Bevan

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