One the the most significant stages in the growth of my faith, was learning to say Morning Prayer from the Church of England’s Daily Office. It isn’t the only form of regular prayer devotional, but it was the one which resonated with me. There was something about the liturgy (here I mean the words we say together as a church) which had a depth of meaning, or even the potential for a shifting meaning. It was almost as though God and I had found a common language, one in which I could understand that the Holy Spirit was speaking to me, rather than the uncertainty of whether I was listening to God or simply hearing my own internal voice, my conscience; speaking into the void and hearing only the echo of my own words coming back to me.
At first I would say Morning Prayer in my local church (long before I became a Vicar) with the priest leading a few of us. Later, when I lived in Teesside, the Vicar at this church invited me to lead Morning Prayer occasionally… when it was just the two of us. We started to use the ‘App’ that had been developed because it saved us the flicking back and forth between the Lectionary, Common Worship and a Bible. The ‘App’ simplified the physical aspects of Morning Prayer so we could focus on God and not on what page we were on.
I had a job which took me to many places and a different time zones. The ‘App’ became a wonderful blessing then, because I didn’t have to carry three books I just needed my smartphone. Also, I could say Morning Prayer in places other than church buildings: A cafe, or a hotel lobby, or more often in an airport departure lounge at 5am. It was through the regular practice of prayer that I had an insight into the shifting meaning of the liturgy…
As I read the words, “let us pray with one heart and mind”, and reflected on the nature of God who created the heavens and the earth and all that fills it; the Creator God who made time and space, I realised that ‘praying with one heart and mind’ meant I could be praying with everyone who was saying Morning Prayer without physically being with them. It didn’t even matter if I was in the same time zone, as far as God is concerned we were all praying together. Some people may say, ‘Graeme, we’ve known this all along,’ but I’m not claiming a special insight; it was simply that I had come to a fresh understanding of what I was saying. Instead of only thinking about the group I was praying with, I suddenly found myself praying with the whole church. It was a perspective I would have struggled to grasp without having to deal with a physically changed situation.
This leads me to our present times and the physical separation due to the Covid-19 pandemic: the church is experienced in gathering together, but now the people of the church are learning to gather together while we are apart.
Many people pray. Many people pray every day: we are not alone. If you are feeling isolated at this time of physical separation, might I invite you to join us? To start to pray every day and find the community which is drawn together in the power of the Holy Spirit. May I invite you to ‘pray with one heart and mind’ with me.
- Daily Prayer App from Church House Publishing and Aimer Media available on Android and iOS
- Go ‘Old School’ and buy the book: ‘Common Worship: Daily Prayer’ you’ll need a Lectionary and your favourite Bible translation
- If your preference is a bit more Celtic in style, the “Northumbria Community is a dispersed network of people from different backgrounds, streams and edges of the Christian faith” and they have online resources here: link
- The Northumbria Community’s physical copies of their books are items of beauty: buy here
- I have a couple of different editions of the Society of St Francis Daily Prayer books, if you taste is a bit more monastic: buy here
- There are a million ‘prayer apps’ but a personal recommendation if you prefer to be led in prayer is the ‘Pray as you Go’ app. I found the variety of voices and music, and the reflections to be very helpful when I lack the energy to lead myself.
The Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of England are backing to a call from the Pope for Christians across the world to join in saying the Lord’s Prayer as part of the response to the coronavirus pandemic. The Church of England is encouraging everyone to share a photo or video using #PrayTogether. If books and apps feel too much, then remember the words of Jesus when his followers asked him, “How do we pray”
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.