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St. Mark’s

What is the point in praying?

By Rev Gav

I have a confession to make, and that is that I am not the world’s greatest at praying. I am often in awe of those for whom prayer comes naturally, is a life-pattern, and an entrenched spiritual discipline. Not so for me. I have never been particularly good with quiet and my ADHD brain is easily distracted. For me, prayer is spontaneous, grabbed in moments between crowded thoughts, and, to be honest, quite often an afterthought. Yet, Jesus did not say ‘if’ you pray but ‘when’ you pray and the Apostle Paul reminds us, in his letter to the church in Ephesus, to “pray at all times,” for prayer is vital for our spiritual wellbeing and, even though I struggle with it, I recognise its immense value and importance.

Prayer is a dialogue and communion with the Holy Trinity. To pray is to put ourselves in a position where we can align ourselves with the very heart of God. To put it in modern parlance (for those with mobile devices) it is like syncing our data with the cloud. Through prayer we become ‘in sync’ with God.

From my limited experience, the dynamic between us and God is a two-way relationship. It is not that God lays down the law, berates us, and chivvies us in the direction God wants us to go, but it is much more like a partnership. God has made us to be god-like in that we have free-will, creativity, opinions, and value. The flow of God’s nature is to love, and as we get caught up together in that flow, we work together to fulfil God’s purposes for the world. I can choose to swim against that flow, to fight it or ignore it, or, through prayer, I can align myself with it and team up with God and others who are also doing the same.

It matters not how we pray, but that we give time and space to do it. One thing most Christians seem to agree on is that we need to find space in our lives to be alone with God, without distractions, and this will be different for everyone. I know of people who are able to find an hour every morning to spend time with God (clearly people without small children!) For others, like me, it will be two minutes snatched here and there throughout the day, or in those few seconds between my head hitting the pillow and my falling asleep. Whenever and wherever you find time to pray, the good thing is you do not have to have eloquent words or know ‘how’ to do it. Just creating the space is enough, and when you feel that you need to speak and struggle to find words, that is when the Lord’s Prayer, prayed from memory, comes into its own.

When I first became a Christian, I expected prayer to work miracles, and even though miracles seem to be few and far between, to this day, I still pray for them to happen — for someone to be healed, for divine intervention, or for God to break into a situation and bring about transformation. I remember once, visiting a remote convent, and I asked the nuns why they had newspapers delivered daily (this was before the Internet) and they answered, “How else would we know what to pray for?”

Of course, prayers often seem to go unanswered, and the atheist will be quick to point out that this is proof that God does not exist, yet, there is something bigger and deeper about prayer, and as I have already hinted, I think it has to do with our involvement in the world. God does not intervene every time there is a crisis, and the world is shaped such that God works through us to bring about God’s will being done ‘on earth as it is in heaven’. When we pray, we align ourselves with a God who feels the pain of hurt, and anger at injustice, and we feel it too, to the point where we are motivated and emboldened, using our God-given skills and creativity, to do something about it. To pray is to agree to be involved in God’s unfolding plan for the world and therefore it is not for the feint-hearted.

Together, with God, we are working towards a time when there will be no more pain and suffering, but we are not there yet. Yes, Jesus came to inaugurate a new kingdom and conquer death, but it is a kingdom that, through the indwelling of God in human hearts, involves each and every one of us who answered the call to take up our cross and follow. We are the bringers of the divine, and we might well be called to be the answer to another’s prayers .

This week, when you pray, may you align yourself with the will and purposes of God. May you see the world as God sees it, see others as God sees them, and yourself as God sees you — a God who overflows with love and compassion. And may, as you pray for God’s kingdom to come, be prepared to be the answer that the world needs, and offer the words, “Help me be Jesus to the world.”