17 October 2006

Pray as you can, not as you can't

"Pray as you can, not as you can't"

This is one of my "mantras". "Mantra" is a nice word for something that I repeat over and over until everyone else is bored of hearing it.

I was given this expression by Sister Anne-Marie Farrell who trained me and many prospective Methodist Ministers in our Foundation Training at the
Guy Chester Centre - "A Place of Hospitality and Welcome" in Muswell Hill, London. (I'm putting in a plug!)

So, given that I say this over and over, why do I keep trying to force myself into some kind of concept of how I "ought" to pray?

Yesterday, I met with my new Spiritual Director. We were talking about this concept of "praying as you can and not as you can't" and he reminded me that the way I can pray today might not be the way that I can pray tomorrow.

I think that one of the reasons I get a bit stuck sometimes is that, actually, I can often be fairly regular in my prayer. I normally say the Daily Office from
Common Worship Daily Prayer and this usually works for me. Bad Methodist that I am, I like set liturgy which I find often opens up a "space" for God to speak and work in me. But not always.

And then there are the lists. Prayer lists of all the people and other intentions (world issues, my own growth) that I want to remember to pray for. Lists can be good as they help to remember things as I get older. But lately, it's felt like I'm just praying through a list of stuff that doesn't seem very meaningful. (And why do people seem to feed this "prayer guilt" by providing us with ever more lists of things we "should" be praying about? The denominational prayer handbook. The District cycle of prayer. The Circuit cycle of prayer [OK not in our circuit, but in some] and the congregational cycle of prayer - how many prayer lists can one person cope with?)

My new Spiritual Director talked about how all of our life is a prayer and how God is everywhere. Stuff I say all the time. Then he talked about how sometimes we "tune in" to God more and other times less, but we hold God in our heart during all of our life. I liked the idea of a "formal prayer" as a tuning in.

Anyway, this morning I did away with the Morning Office (although I read the lectionary readings for today) and I did away with the darn lists of prayer intentions and I just sat in God's presence for about 20 minutes. First reading my bible and then just sitting there.

This morning, I prayed as I could. And it was good.

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