Many ways to pray

Published on: 7 September 2021

However long prayer has been part of our lives, it’s good to take the long view from time to time. Do our regular ways of praying give us life and nourish our faith? Reflection is always healthy, creating a space into which God’s Spirit can blow afresh.

This new-look Prayer Diary is the result of such reflection and the year ahead in which our diocese will focus on letting Christ transform us to be more prayerful, will offer us myriad opportunities for more reflection, more Spirit-given newness.

There are many ways in which to pray and the Mission Hub offers a range of resources:

The visual arts, for example, can stir our souls profoundly. The Flower Seller (1942) [left] by Diego Rivera not only leads us into prayer but also teaches us about prayer.

A Mexican girl with neatly braided hair kneels before an enormous bunch of Calla lilies. She leans into the flowers, extending a tender embrace around them. Her head is slightly bowed. There is a deep stillness about her. She is utterly attentive. In short, her body is set in an attitude of absorbed prayer. Her unshod feet underline this: she is on holy ground and we, witnessing this moment, know ourselves to be on holy ground too. We cannot help being drawn in, mesmerised by the quality of the girl’s attentiveness. As Bishop Simon Phipps once said, “Prayer is absolute attention to what is the case”.

There’s something else about the child. In the vulnerability of her naked feet and in her widely extended arms, we glimpse something cross-like, Christ-like. Through her praying, she has, then, allowed the life of Jesus to come alive in her and she shows us how, as we pray,
we can mirror his wide-armed, self-giving embrace of the whole world.

So, what about those flowers? Well, they fill the whole painting, bigger than the girl herself, their scale overwhelming. When we settle down to pray for those around us or for the world at large, the sheer scale of need can overwhelm. This Prayer Diary helps by taking one ‘lily’ at a time: one benefice a day with its parishes and people and schools; one facet of life in our own diocese (the care of those living with dementia for example); one diocese far beyond our region but joined to us though Christ.

Our little flower-seller teaches us about stillness and attentiveness in prayer and inspires us to let the transforming presence of Jesus flow through us as we pray. But look how the canvas glows! The girl has deliberately let that presence flow from her into each of the flowers in her embrace – “holding them in The Light” as Quakers say. Each lily is lit from within, luminous as if with Christ’s risen presence.

We too, inspired by this painting, can flood those for whom we pray with the transforming light of Christ, and with St Paul, trustingly proclaim, “Everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Cor 5:17).

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