Let’s start praying again
The late Fr Bernard Bassett SJ wrote a pithy little book entitled Let’s Start Praying Again. It began with the assumption that prayer is hard work, and the consequence of this is that most people’s prayer life peters out at regular intervals. It is a little gem made more readable by its sense of humour. To be honest, much of our attempts at prayer are laughable! Sometimes it is the faintly ridiculous aspect of prayer that proves an obstacle. This is because prayer is, by its very nature, a solitary activity.
Jesus’ teaching on prayer insists on going into our own room and closing the door. Prayer is a secret thing. The dilemma for many people is that on our own, left to our own devices, we find it hard to take ourselves seriously. Solitude can make us self-conscious in a way that smothers any possibility of being open to God, and even open to ourselves. A question often posed about the experience of prayer is, ‘Is this real, or am I going mad?’ It is important to find consolation in the fact that praying does not always come easily. It can take some getting used to.
It is very hard to find any human activity that can be compared to praying. It is the irony of prayer that for our part we must use our will not to do anything but to be in the presence of God; ourselves, alone, with nothing to hide behind, no ritual, no activity, to be simple and vulnerable in him. There are many activities that are called prayer in that they are expression of our communion and relationship with God, but the essence of this relationship is found when we cease to be active and allow God to be active in us, in ways often beyond our knowing and understanding. From first to last this has to be the work of Grace. It is Grace that our transforms our ridiculous little attempts to order our lives around the reality of God into the possibility of Holy Communion.
Despite all the difficulties and frustrations, and the almost inevitable failures of our prayer life the call to ‘start praying again’ is insistent and abiding deep in the Christian psyche. Although prayer may seem awkward, especially the solitary prayer of quiet, it is what we were made for. Humanity does have the capacity to know God in a personal way; to have a relationship that has the dynamic to bring life and light, transformation and new understanding. So we begin the adventure again and again, for to turn away from the invitation would be to abandon our true self, the soul that is made to live with God forever. One thing we can always do is read a book about prayer. That is fine as long as it is not used as an excuse to start praying again tomorrow!
Andy Hawes is Vicar of Edenham with Witham on the Hill and Swinstead and Rural Dean of Beltishaw