Wednesday, June 06, 2007

People come in all shapes and sizes - so do prayers!

With my 'lads group' last night, though only two turned up (!) we talked, or rather I talked and they got easily distracted, which is OK because I get easily distracted so it was fun too! Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, the subject was prayer, and as I was preparing the evening and digging out some of my old notes (some of them up to 25 years old EEEK!) on prayer I realised how much my feeling about prayer has changed.

I was brought up in a tradition which said that praying in Church was good, praying in homegroups was good, but the impression given was that the best kind of prayer was alone either morning or evening as part of a 'quiet time'. Now I can see that a daily discipline of prayer is important, and I love to pray - but quiet times just aren't me. I don't do quiet very well. I like to read, I like to spend time just sitting and thinking, but an extended period of what feels like 'forced' silence just fills me with horror, and boredom, usually. When my bishop announced that we were going on a silent retreat before our ordination to the priesthood, my heart sank. I bought a bottle of whisky to take with me (it was a four day retreat), took lots of spare batteries for my walkman, and prepared to wander off to the shops a lot in the hope of conversations whilst buying lots of packets of gum. As it was, the talks given by the retreat leader were fantastic, as was the shared worship, but the rest of the time - especially meals - was pretty grim. A friend of mine who was also on retreat and who likes that quiet kind of thing, was gracious enough to take time out of his solitude and taught me to roll cigarettes! It's since then I've been a regular smoker. That's how much I loathe silence.

I guess it is because I am from a very big family, numerically big that is, not all of us are wobbly and wide like me. I very rarely had silence, and still get my energy from groups of people rather than solitude. When I work, or write, when I was doing my exam preparation at University, when I prepare sermons, I always have music, or the TV or the radio on as it helps me to concentrate.

Oops, distracted again, the plan was not to tell my life story. It's all relevant though.

As I prepared the talk on prayer, i reflected again how much i dislike the idea of silent prayer being the 'best' kind of prayer. Obviously as I've got older i value silence more, i can sit for long periods of time with no distractions, and things such as the three hour meditation for Good Friday are Oases of calm in a very busy life. But that's not my preference. One of the great liberations for me in my prayer life was when my Spiritual Director said to me 'pray your way - if you like noise, put on music, or shout your prayers, or sing them, or play your guitar, whatever.' This idea of praying in a way that matches our personality means that prayer, though it often requires discipline and focus, isn't a chore or a burden. It's true that praying can be difficult, but it doesn't have to be miserable because you feel miserable. Sometimes, often even, it will be challenging, as opening up to God serves to challenge us, praying for a broken world breaks us and acknowledging our own sinfulness pains us but we don't need to make prayer a painful thing to do.

One interesting book I have on this subject is called Pray Your Way and looks at how different personality types respond to different types of praying. Good book.

Anyway, all of this came about as I thought that now I love to pray, and i don't feel guilty when I don't pray, I feel as though I've missed out on something wonderful and good to do. And I don't get hung up about where and when and how I pray, I just pray. God wants to listen, and to speak to me, I want to listen and to speak to God, and just as I don't plan my relationship with my wife and kids, but we share things, we work things out together, we grow and love, so my prayer life should be.

So I wrote out some notes for the lads last night, I'll post them on the deep stuff blog here.

Time to go, i need to get some sorting out done in my life, or rather in my study. What a mess.

5 comments:

All Blog Spots said...

nice blog

quilly said...

I often pray when I am doing house cleaning. My hands can fold laundry or dust or vacuum without my brain's 100% participation. I pause momentarily all day long and speak to God in short sentences. Sometimes, like when I hear a siren or see an accident, I just stop and focus on sendng God the emotion welling up in my soul.

I have always done these things, but because the teaching on prayer I received as a child didn't mention these things, it wasn't until a few years ago that I recognized my action as praying. The revelation that God knows what I need and I am not required to hunt for eloquent and compelling words enriched my pray life greatly. God is part of me. Part of who I am, and I can talk to him in the same manner I talk to myself -- half formed thoughts, phases, moments of emotions. He knows, because he is here with me always.

sushil yadav said...

Alastair McCollum,

You have written about Silence, Solitude, Prayer and Meditation. We are living in an Overstimulated and Transient culture with very short attention spans. I think it was Bill McKibben who once said - Three things most difficult to find in Modern Society are - silence, solitude and darkness.

In this context I want to post a part from my article which examines the impact of Speed, Overstimulation, Consumerism and Industrialization on our Minds and environment. Please read.

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.

The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature.

The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues.

Subject : In a fast society slow emotions become extinct.
Subject : A thinking mind cannot feel.
Subject : Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys the planet.

Emotion is what we experience during gaps in our thinking.

If there are no gaps there is no emotion.

Today people are thinking all the time and are mistaking thought (words/ language) for emotion.

When society switches-over from physical work (agriculture) to mental work (scientific/ industrial/ financial/ fast visuals/ fast words ) the speed of thinking keeps on accelerating and the gaps between thinking go on decreasing.

There comes a time when there are almost no gaps.

People become incapable of experiencing/ tolerating gaps.

Emotion ends.

Man becomes machine.


A society that speeds up mentally experiences every mental slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A ( travelling )society that speeds up physically experiences every physical slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A society that entertains itself daily experiences every non-entertaining moment as Depression / Anxiety.


Fast visuals/ words make slow emotions extinct.

Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys emotional circuits.

A fast (large) society cannot feel pain / remorse / empathy.

A fast (large) society will always be cruel to Animals/ Trees/ Air/ Water/ Land and to Itself.

To read the complete article please follow any of these links :
PlanetSave
FreeInfoSociety
ePhilosopher
Corrupt

sushil_yadav

Tom said...

I've never been very good at prayer, at least the silent, serious type. On the bright side, I don't think we get judged on skill, rather effort.

I read a book recently that had this line in it that went something like, "even the desire to pray is a gift from God." I like that thought.

Good post.

Andrew said...

I know in Christian circles we make a big thing of prayer and you must do it regularly etc...

But what is prayer. All I view it as is a conversation with my Father in heaven. We have a chat! Sometimes is is good to shut up and listen, to be silent. God says important things for us to hear. Well He would as he is God and flung stars into space so may have something to say about the world in which we live :-). Anyway, I try and chat with God throughout the day wherever I am. This is often in the little room where you can be alone (yes that little room).

Prayer is vitally important to your relationship with The Lord but the how is less so I think. Praying together is great, when two or more gather together etc... It builds faith, togetherness and love in shared focus. Alone is more about chatting, laying your burdens down, sharing your heart, intimate worship.

That's my feelings anyway. Guilt bad, desire to do it good, actually doing it in whatever form brilliant.