A Word from the Dean
from the September 3, 2017, Adventurer
Nearly every Christian would agree that prayer is a priority, and yet so few of us really pray. I don’t mean the form of our prayers, but the act of prayer. I know that amongst clergy it is not unusual to hear of someone spending 20 hours in preparation for a sermon, but less than 20 minutes praying over it.
Anglicans, especially, have a hard time praying, which is ironic. We have such wonderful and beautiful prayers in the Book of Common Prayer that ought to help us, but sometimes intimidate us into thinking that those prayers are standard. “If that’s how I’m supposed to sound when I pray, I’m doomed,” we think.
Of course in the Bible we find that the most effective and heartfelt prayers are not necessarily well-crafted literary works of art; they are prayed in the moment, spontaneous. As Peter sinks below the waves he prays, “Lord save me!” When the Syrophoenician woman asks Jesus to heal her daughter she prays, “Lord help me.” Just three-word prayers.
Because of this Anglican pressure, we often try to craft our prayers beforehand in our minds in order that we might not only be acceptable, but in some cases, impress those praying with us. We even begin writing our prayers mentally while other people are praying, so that we’re not hearing at all what they are saying. Of course, this means we’re praying to people and not to God.
Jesus is explicit in his condemnation of such prayers. He warns against praying prayers crafted to draw attention to our own spirituality and that use words that are more flowery than are heartfelt and biblical (Mt. 6:5,7). Prayer is honest communication with God about who we are, but above all, who he is.
Because prayer is essential to our gospel witness, the Advent will begin a monthly prayer meeting at Cranmer House. All that will happen in that gathering is prayer. I may share specific prayer needs of the Advent, but going to God in prayer is what we will be about. Beyond this opportunity to gather in prayer, I pray that in your own lives you find time to pray even three-word prayers that come from your heart and are directed to the heart of God.