Where and when should I pray?
Some people say prayer is like eating. We don’t eat all the time, but we need regular meals to resource us for everything else that happens during the day. Think of those times that you set aside for prayer as your chance to sit down and eat with God and receive what you need for the rest of the day.
Some people say it is like breathing. Something we do all the time.
“Pray all the time,”
says St Paul.
"Pray all the time," says St Paul (1 Thessalonians 5.17). I don't think he means do that activity we call “prayer” all the time. I think he means make your life a prayer. But to do that, we probably need focused moments of prayer. Over time – like a fine wine maturing in the barrel, or an onion being pickled in vinegar – we are slowly changed. We become prayerful.
A love letter from God
The whole Christian story of the birth, life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ could be summed up as a “love letter from God”.
In Jesus, God declares his love for us. What we call prayer, those stumbling, faltering words that we use to speak to God, is simply our response.
In other words, prayer can become like breathing. And it needs to be regular like eating. But it is most like loving. And it is most like loving because it is, at heart, a relationship.
This is the most basic truth about prayer. Prayer is relationship with God; it is the relationship we are made for. Like all relationships it is not easy to describe. I know what it feels like to be in love. But it is hard to define it. Put together all the most beautiful love poems in the world and they are as nothing compared with a few moments of love itself.
Being a Christian is like a love affair. In Jesus we see how God gives himself to us in love. “As the Father has loved me,” says Jesus, “so I have loved you.” (John 15.9)
Prayer is an act of love and a participation in the life of love. In Jesus, God declares his love for us. In prayer we come into communion with God to express our love to him.
So prayer can happen everywhere and anywhere. It’s not just something that happens in a church or other special place. Neither does it depend on special times – although we probably still need those special times to nurture the relationship.
So prayer can happen everywhere and anywhere. It’s not just something that happens in a church or other special place.
“The whole reason why we pray is summed up in the sight and vision of
him to whom we pray … the more the soul sees God,
the more by his grace
does it want him. ”
you have prepared for those who love you
such good things as pass our understanding:
pour into our hearts such love toward you
that we, loving you in all things
and above all things,
may obtain your promises
which exceed all that we can desire;
through Jesus our Lord. Amen.
The material by Stephen Cottrell is taken from the illustrated Church House Publishing book and eBook Prayer: Where to Start and How to Keep Going. The text is © Stephen Cottrell 2020 and includes material adapted from How to Pray , which is © Stephen Cottrell 1998, 2003, 2010 and is used here with permission of the author and publishers.
Prayers from Common Worship volumes and New Patterns for Worship are copyright © The Archbishops’ Council 2000–2008 and 2002 respectively and are published by Church House Publishing. Used here with permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Illustrations are by www.penguinboy.net
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