Prayer - a priority for us all
One of the key priorities for our diocese is to be ' deeply rooted in prayer and in study of the scriptures'
We hope you will grow in your spirituality and prayer life, to ways in which we may begin to deepen the sense of God in our lives and our experience of prayer.
Age-old advice underlines the importance of "praying as we can, not as we can't". One of the ways in which we may do this is to develop the awareness of our prayer being tied up with our daily life. "Life is to be a prayerful work and a working prayer" (Elias Chacour).
But prayer also includes the deliberate 'turning aside', corporately and personally, to give time to God. We practice giving attention to God so that life can be kept 'God centred'.
What is prayer?
Christianity has been described as, "...a way of life and a way of prayer". This suggests that, rather than being an add-on, something to aspire to if one is a particularly holy person, prayer is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian, a disciple of Jesus.
Poets and hymn writers have expressed this vividly. According to the poet-priest George Herbert, prayer is "...God's breath in man returning to his birth."
In similar vein, hymn writer James Montgomery, wrote "Prayer is the Christian's vital breath, the Christian's native air..." These words remind us of Scripture's picture of the Holy Spirit as 'God's breath' in the follower of Christ... "[Jesus] breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit'." (John 20:22)
What do I think I am doing when I pray?
In reply to that question, former Archbishop Rowan Williams once replied, "As a Christian, my understanding is that what I'm doing is allowing the life of Jesus to come alive in me with the Holy Spirit... So when I pray I'm trying to make room for that." ( BBC Radio 4 programme, Something Understood, September 2009.)
It's worth thinking about that again... When we pray, what is going on is that we are trying make room for something special to happen: to allow "the life of Jesus to come alive in [us] by the Holy Spirit."
This tells us something else about prayer, something which all of the great teachers about prayer would have us learn. Prayer, at its heart, has more to do with God's working in us than with what we are doing.
How can I deepen my experience of prayer?
There are many ways in which each of as individuals might develop, and deepen, a regular practice of private prayer - to support and strengthen our experience of prayer and worship with others. One helpful resource is the leaflet entitled ' Prayer', produced by the Retreat Association.
In the pattern of prayer illustrated in the leaflet, we are introduced to something else that is at the heart of Christian prayer: silence and stillness. In prayer, silence and stillness represent, amongst other things, attitudes of waiting, openness, and trust.
Spirituality - what does it mean?
Spirituality has to do with "journeying, questioning, seeking. But it is also to do with the influence of God's Spirit ('spirituality') through whom we can see life and its experiences in fresh ways."
Spirituality is also connected with learning to experience the 'extraordinary' in the ordinariness of our daily lives. (A free translation of some words at the beginning of John's Gospel might read, "The Word became flesh, and came to live right where we are". John 1:14).
The Communications Team in the diocesan office produces a Prayer Diary to encourage prayer for individuals, parishes and organisations within the diocese. These are published each day on our social media channels and on the homepage of the website.
The following pages on the Church of England website will tell you more about prayer and offer useful resources.
- Learning to Pray
- Join us in Daily Prayer
- Topical Prayers
- Worship Texts and Resources
- Download Prayer Apps
- Common Worship Publications
- The Retreat Association. The Retreat Association is an ecumenical organisation that seeks to help people find ways of exploring and deepening their journey with God through spirituality and prayer. It has links to retreat houses throughout the UK, and has a wide range of free leaflets.
- The Third Order of St Francis. There was a lot more to St Francis than his love of birds and animals. His challenge to the Church to follow Jesus’ earthly life, to proclaim the gospel and bring justice and peace to a broken world is just as urgent today as it was in the 13th Century. The Third Order of St Francis (TSSF) is a body of people who seek to follow Francis’ example in their daily lives. To find out more, please contact Sally Jones on 01594 781526 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Bible Society 'Lyfe' project. The site contains a wealth of material for individuals and groups about practical Christian living and prayer. The 'Lyfe' project "is about hearing God, through the Bible, in the company of others... Connecting God, us and everyday life."
- Sacred Space. The site, using an Ignatian framework for daily prayer, invites the user to "make a 'Sacred Space' in your day, praying here and now, as you visit our website, with the help of scripture chosen every day and on-screen guidance." The material is also available in print in the form of the booklets Sacred Space for Lent and Sacred Space for Advent.
- Pray-as-you-go. Pray-as-you-go is a similar site that provides material for daily reflection and prayer that can be downloaded for mp3 players and other devices.
- Rejesus. In a site focusing on the person of Jesus, Rejesus has a wealth of resources for individuals and groups on living the Christian way and on prayer.
- Bible Reading Fellowship. BRF (Bible Reading Fellowship) has the aim of helping people of all ages - children, adults and families - to explore Christianity and to grow in faith. Their site contains links to a wide range of books and other material for "resourcing your spiritual journey".
- Retreats in daily life: Manresa Link. This is an ecumenical network of prayer companions, based around Birmingham and the West Midlands, who provide 'retreats in daily life' for churches and individuals. A number of churches in the diocese have made use of these retreats. The retreats are normally conducted ecumenically, with groups of churches in a locality joining together. For further details contact the secretary.