I hadn’t realised how long I’d been away, and if you asked me ever so hard, I’m not sure I know why now broke the writer’s block, but people have been sweet, so thank you. I think it helped with Audre here. Having another female Anglican voice was somehow comforting – again, don’t expect me to say why, it just was.
I’ll apologise here for the passive-aggressive tone in some of my early responses on Newman. I don’t mean to come across that way, and don’t know I do it, so thank you to Phillip and C for both, courteously, pointing it out. As I said to Phillip, I will try to be good rather than be good at being trying! I have been reading back a bit, and would like to thank Nicholas and C who have done a great job of keeping this going, as well as Scoop and others who’ve played a noble part.
Writing, and reading a blog, as I discovered, is either a routine you get into, or it doesn’t happen at all. Is that just me? I say that because I find the same is true of prayer. Prayer can seem an odd thing to outsiders. If God knows everything we need, why are we telling him? If God is omnipotent, why do we have to praise him and flatter him all the time? Such questions and comments fail to understand prayer, and I want to say why I think that.
Prayer is, for me, tuning into the God who is always there, and it’s about nurturing the relationship I have with him. That’s where church is vital to me, as the church is Christ’s. Routine helps me here in two ways. I pray the same three Offices every day at about the same time: Morning Prayer; Evening Prayer and Compline. It was C who recommended the habit to me and I am grateful. It helped me overcome two of my natural reactions to private prayer, one of which was that it was a bit of chore when I was tired or busy and couldn’t think what to say, and the other was an anxiety to try to be good for God and in some way win his approval. The words of Common Worship provide me with a text which I have come to love, and in the repeating of the words, I find they mean more to me; it is as though whatever ‘tuning in’ is happening deepens. It’s the same when listening to a beautiful piece of music, the more you play and listen, the more you get out of it. My prayer seems to me to become part of a bigger and ongoing prayer and the more I do it, the closer I feel I get.
And that’s where the bit about adoration comes in. When I say the Psalms or the Litany I’m not flattering God, I’m simply expressing my love for him. Prayer is who I am at those moments, it takes me deeper into the reality of Jesus. I feel as though I am stepping into an ongoing conversation. I marvel at God’s love and his glory. Its why I like that bugbear of some, icons. I look at him in my icons, in the same way I look at the Eucharist when, in church, I practice Eucharistic Adoration; looking is important. As some saint or other (someone here will know) once said about prayer: ‘I look at him and he looks at me.’
I love him and in those precious moments I can feel the love he has for me. I repent of my sins, but they pale because the overwhelming feeling is of his love and connectedness. I can set aside, because he has, my sins and concentrate on being in his presence, feeling his gaze on me, bathed in love. That’s the point I offer up my prayers for others, not because I think he doesn’t know, but just because being human, that’s the way I express my love for others too. And even though I am often alone in my room when I pray, I know I am praying with the whole church, here on earth and in heaven – so it seems natural to use ‘we’ rather than “I.’
Prayer is the way the church gives me to deepen my communion with Jesus, and I think of my beloved George Herbert’s poetry and want to finish this little piece with a poem of his which expresses all I just tried to say much better than I can:
Prayer the church’s banquet, angel’s age,
God’s breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth
Engine against th’ Almighty, sinner’s tow’r,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-days world transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
Exalted manna, gladness of the best,
Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul’s blood,
The land of spices; something understood.