Playing & Praying

Andy Hawes is Warden of Edenham Regional Retreat House

Recreational activities are exactly that: they re-create. They are physical or mental activities, often using all the senses and sometimes involving memory and imagination. Recreational activities are one way in which the image of God is restored in us. The miraculous thing about recreation is that there are countless ways in which it can happen. From the usual pursuits of gardening, cooking, reading or walking to the ‘fine art’ of making or listening to music or painting, sculpting or visiting a gallery; all these activities are a renewing engagement with both the glory of creation and the mystery of being alive.

Many of these activities are used in occupational therapy – there is healing to be found in creativity. For these reasons (and many others), it is important that as part of a review of life we should include recreation among the other areas for prayerful review – Bible reading and study, prayer and quiet, giving and service, confession, retreats and worship.

One reason for such a ‘review’ is to ensure that the gifts that God has given us are put to the best use. For example, a reader may have a fine singing voice and may have sung in choirs at one time. Perhaps personal circumstances changed

and that became impossible, but in the present it is not any circumstance but a dull apathy that prevents the use of the gift and the enjoyment and interaction that would surely bring. So many people say to me, T used to do this and I used to so enjoy that…’ It is these ‘used to’ activities that need putting in front of the mind from time to time.

All of us are ridiculously gifted and most of us are distressingly lazy at using and enjoying these gifts. For instance, think of something as essential as preparing a meal as a recreational activity. A meal freshly prepared brings the cook into physical contact with creation in all its rich variety; it involves many of the skills of the artist in taking and rearranging creation to make something new by combination and physical skill; and in addition it can be an expression of love and care for others. There is a spirituality of cooking. There is little spirituality in the microwave or take-away.

One of our contemporary challenges is so to engage with others in the use of our gifts that we experience recreation, when all the pressures of our society are geared towards making us consumers of entertainment. I played rugby for many seasons and now I am appalled at the huge number of young men who pay to watch others play instead of playing themselves. I cannot play any more, but I can help put the flags out and shout from the touchline! It is the Christian way to be actively engaged with creation and community. It is not the Christian way to be a passive consumer.

A person who plays at something with others (even bingo) stands a better chance of praying in God’s presence. Remember the Lord’s promise that T come that you may have life in all its abundance.’ Part of that abundance is surely found in having fun, in making and doing, in sharing with others and engaging with creation as a workshop and a playground.