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PART NINE

What is prayer and
how do I start?


How do I go deeper in prayer?


'Reading the Bible each day
 is a basic part of the Christian diet.
 Other spiritual books,
 apps and podcasts can also be very helpful.
 I've tried to signpost just a few resources
 here that might help you take
 the next step in your prayer journey.'


Reflective Bible reading

This way of reading the Bible reflectively
is traditionally known as Lectio Divina
("holy reading"). It dates back to the early
centuries of the Christian Church
and St Benedict encouraged its use in
monasteries in the sixth century.
It is a way of praying the Scriptures that
leads us deeper into God's word.
We slow down.
We read a short passage more than once.
We chew it over slowly and carefully.
We savour it.
Scripture begins to speak to us in a new way.
It speaks to us personally,
and aids that union we have with God
through Christ who is himself
the Living Word.
You can do it on your own;
with those who share your home,
or in a group or a conference
call with others.


A prayer before Bible reading

O Lord,
you have given us your word
for a light to shine upon our path.
Grant us so to meditate on that word,
and to follow its teaching,
that we may find in it the light
that shines more and more
until the perfect day;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

  (A prayer before Bible reading,
  after Jerome (420))


The Psalms

The psalms have always had a very
significant place in Christian prayer.
In today's church they are not as familiar as
they used to be, though many churches
and cathedrals still say or sing
the psalms as a regular part
of their worship.
Perhaps now is the time to renew our
acquaintance with the
"prayer book of the Bible"?


The psalms give us words to
express our joy, our faithfulness,
our frustration, and our fear


The Psalms are a tremendous
resource for our praying, especially
when we're not sure what to say.
This is the reason they endure.
The psalms give us words to express
our joy, our faithfulness,
our frustration, and our fear.
Whatever you are feeling about
almost any given situation,
there is a psalm that will match
it and trump it.

So, if you are feeling joyful,
there is a psalm that is more
joyful than you.
If you are feeling alienated or alone,
there is a psalm that is more
isolated than you.

At our time of need we have
words at hand. And at the same time
these same words extend and
enlarge our faith.
Jesus died with the words of the
psalms on his lips and in his heart.
The words that he had learned
in his youth sustained him.

For Christians, some of these psalms -
especially Psalm 22 and Psalm 69 -
become profound mediations on
Christ's passion and death.

When we face suffering,
perhaps the illness or death
of a loved one, then these are
words that we can turn to.
Jesus obviously knew at least some
of the psalms by heart.
Ours is an age where some of the
spiritual and disciplines which helped
to form our forebears as Christians
have fallen into disuse.

So, for instance, the idea of reading
prayers and learning things by heart
is out of fashion.

Here is a last little challenge:
why not learn a psalm by heart -
perhaps Psalm 23,
that most comforting of psalms
suggested at the end
of the previous section?

If you do this,
you will be giving yourself a gift
that will last lifetime,
a prayer that you can draw on
in your hour of need.


Prayer beads

This ancient way of praying uses
knotted string or beads.
The prayer is rhythmic.
As we pass each knot or bead
through our fingers,
we say short prayers that
have been committed to memory.

The most famous of these forms
of prayer is called the rosary.
As a set pattern of prayers
is recited, the person praying
meditates on different aspects
of the Christian story.

You can find the set prayers online
if you would like to explore
this way of praying.
Once you have got into the rhythm
of the prayer, you can
concentrate on the story of the
gospel as you recite the prayers.


Prayer beads and prayers string
can be great for children.


Prayer beads and prayer strings
can be great for children.
They will enjoy making them
as well as using them.
You can either follow a set pattern,
like the rosary,
or make up your own patterns.


"Don't make your prayer life
 depend on the whims of the moment;
 make it a regular, daily practice.
 God is always present,
 always loving ,
 and he is waiting for you."

  Michael Quoist,
  The Christian Response


There are plenty of books
that you can read about prayer.

Much of the material here is
adapted from my own longer book
How to Pray: alone, with others,
at any time, in any place,

which includes a list of
further resources.


The Pilgrim Course
is shaped around reflective
reading of the Bible.

A good place to start
is the course on The Lord's Prayer.
There are sample sessions -
and free audio and video resources -
available to download on
The Pilgrim Course website.


The Church of England's
Daily Prayer app

offers a daily diet of psalms
and Bible readings,
and the accompanying
Reflections for Daily Prayer
app, book or eBook makes a good companion,
with a short meditation on one
of the passages set for each day.

Other popular apps to help with daily
Bible reading and reflection
include
Pray As You Go
and
Lectio 365.


Prayer


O Lord, you have given us your word
for a light to shine upon our path.
Grant us so to meditate on that word,
and to follow its teaching,
that we may find in it the light
that shines more and more
until the perfect day;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

 (A prayer before Bible reading,
after Jerome (420))


 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

Copyright ©2021. The Church of England. All rights reserved.