I do struggle with prayer. I know this comes as a bit of a relief for some of my little flock. That if the Rector struggles with it, then I don’t feel so bad. I struggle with silent prayer, as I’m sure you all know by now. I struggle with the Daily Office unless I get to say it with other people. On the other hand, I am very good at Arrow Prayers – of moments in the day when things flit into my mind and I send them off like an arrow to God. I’m flighty really. I do like the Rosary but forget to do it – maybe that will be my plan for next Lent… but again I prefer it in a group.
This Lent we have been looking at different aspects of prayer and how some personalities find some prayer suits them better than others. This week we will be looking at Contemplative Prayer, Centring Prayer, Silent Meditation – whatever you like to call it. I’ve been having to do a bit of reading up on it. I picked up a little book called Pathways to Prayer which was an old Lent book I had from 1996 and started to flick through it. It is really a Lent course with contributors such as Basil Hume, Grace Sheppard, Donald English, Gerard Hughes and Angela Tilby and I wish I’d found it earlier for it might have made my life a lot easier.
But the thing which has excited me most was a wee paragraph about Writing Prayer. Why on earth have I not heard about this before? In a way I have been kind of doing it already. I have kept a journal since I was about 14. Well it was really a diary to begin with, but in time it developed into a journal and then a sort of spiritual journal. It used to be a record of my life, places I visited and events that happened to me. Sometimes it was just a few lines, sometimes it was pages. Before I joined any church, it was the place where I explored ‘spirituality’ through my journey into what is called ‘New Age’, a place where I asked questions and pondered life and stuff. I recently found these journals and realise that in fact some of it is prayer. Well who else was I writing to but God? There is some poetry, not very good poetry but ‘prayer poetry’ doesn’t have to be good, I reckon. When I joined the church my journal records my journey with God, with the people I met, the books I read, the places visited. And then I was ordained and the journalling took a back seat partly because I just didn’t have time. At that same time I started blogging and it kind of took the place of the journal, but without the embarrassing personal stuff. But I did start keeping Journals for quotes and prayers I found which were meaningful to me. I have notebooks stuffed full of a cornucopia of bon mots which I go back to time and time again.
Today in this wee book both Cardinal Hume and Grace Sheppard said that they found it helpful to write prayers. Do you know, I’d never thought of doing that? Yet time and time again I have recommended to people that they get a journal and write down what is troubling them. And I know it works. I’ve seen people with insomnia, with tremendous stress, with big problems all find relief in ‘getting rid of what troubles them’ on paper. I’ve done it myself before. In fact, my lists are nothing more than making sense of what is cluttering my head and putting it in some sense of order. But why did I never think of that as prayer before? Why did I never think of praying as I wrote it down? Why did I never think of writing down the names of the people I have to pray for each day at the Daily Office? (As it happens I have a pile of post-it notes with names of people to pray for all over my desk.) But why did I not think of setting aside some time to write down my prayers each morning?
I love this! I love this idea of writing things down to pray. I love the ideas of writing wee poems and psalms as they come into my head. Of carrying around my journal of prayer for times during the day. Of using colour when words are inadequate? Eureka!
I shall say no more for now, as this is going to be the topic for next week’s Lent Group. But I can’t tell you how happy I am. I’ve finally found a prayer that works for me. I’m going to write my own!