Having looked at praying for others and what to do when prayer is difficult, our last sermon on Prayer is How to Pray.
Prayer is at the heart of our relationship with because it is the most basic and fundamental form of communication. Without communication no relationship can survive, let alone grow. We know this through our relationships with one another, and the same applies to our relationship with God. With spending time with him, without prayer, our relationship begins to stagnate at best, or fade completely. If we pray regularly then we grow in faith, and we become stronger people because we are spending time with God, giving him our worries and concerns (for others and ourselves) and we are spending time listening to him guiding our lives.
So how should we pray? Well, as last week, I have to say that as prayer is a personal thing, so in many ways it is finding what works best for you – and if you want additional help in exploring this then please do let me know. But there are some basic things that I can say today that I hope are of use to everyone.
The first and most important things to do are to find the right time and the right place. The right time is the time when you can set aside 10 minutes or more to engage with prayer. If you are a morning person this could mean getting up before everyone else in the house rises; or conversely if you are a night person setting aside time before going to bed. And all the various times in between, such as on the way to work (if you take the train or bus) at lunch time or any other time that is good for you.
Once the right time has been identified then the next most important thing is where. If you find it easy to tune other people out then on the train or bus might well be a possibility; but if not then you need to think about where you can go to get peace and quiet; where you can go so as not to be disturbed. The sort of places you could think about include: in the garden, in your bedroom, in the lounge, dinning room, shed, in the park, whilst our walking the dog, in the bath. My mother always had her quiet time in her bedroom in the early evening, sat in front of her dressing table. She never minded if my sister or I went in too, as long as we were quiet and read the Bible passage with her and prayed with her. Find what works for you and your family.
I’m very fortunate in that I have two churches to be able to pray in. Churches I guess are the most conducive places for prayer, because that is what they were built for. And of course, if ever anyone wants to join me for prayers in the morning at either church you would be most welcome – that’s one of the reasons for ringing the bell. And after half term we are starting a time of prayer at St. Matthew’s school at 8.40 before the school day starts for children, parents and staff. It will only last for 10 minutes, so why not come along and start the week off with some prayers.
Having found the right place and the right time the first thing to do when trying to pray is to “Attend to Prayer.” This may seem like an obvious thing, but I say it because unless we focus our mind on what it is we are doing – unless we “Attend to it – we wont get very far. Often it can take a while to focus on prayer, especially when there are 1001 things going round in our mind. But in “attending to prayer” we begin to tune into God, to centre our minds on him, so that our pray time can be more fruitful. It is far better to spend more time getting ready to pray than in actual prayer.
So once we are praying what should we pray? Well, anything really. Just say what is on your heart and mind – tell God whatever you want, say prayers for whomever you want. The words we use are in a sense unimportant; it is what is said that counts. When we talk to a close friend or our partner we don’t use long and flowery sentences that have been constructed carefully; we use words and emotions to express how we feel. So why shouldn’t we talk to God in the same way – he too wants an intimate relationship with us – he wants us to tell him how we feel and who we care about.
Having said that it can be useful to have a structure to our prayer time. There are many different ways to this, but you could use the Lord’s Prayer as a structure for example – after all when the disciples asked Jesus how they should pray that is how he guided them – and don’t forget they were good Jews who would have been used to praying every day.
The basic structure of our prayer time should therefore include an element of praise and worship of God; prayer for others; prayer for our needs; asking God’s forgiveness for anything we done that is right; and prayers of thanks for all that God has done for you that day, or for answered prayers.
And having spent time talking to God, spend some time in silence listen to him as well – either throughout your prayer time or at the end. You may not always feel that God is saying anything in particular, and that’s ok – we don’t always have words to say to our friends or partners, sometimes all we can do is give them a hug, so why not have space in prayer to receive a hung from God?
In addition to regular set times of prayer we often need to send what are sometimes called arrow prayers: short prayers quickly shot to God in times of need. Prayers like “Please God help me in this meeting” or “please God help me to support my friend in the right way”. These are fine and can be very helpful in getting us through busy or tough times, but shouldn’t be the only aspect of our prayer life.
So there is a whistle stop tour of prayer: how to pray, praying for others and when prayer is difficult. Although we have spent 3 weeks covering this topic we have only really just scratched the surface of it, but I hope this has given you food for thought.
I leave you with a prayer by Walter Brueggemann used at the start of his Old Testament theology class entitled We would know more of you:
P 54 Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth. Prayers of Walter Brueggeman. This prayer cannot be published on the website as part of the sermon due to copy write law.
Creation date : 24/11/2007 - 22:36
Last update : 24/11/2007 - 22:36
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