Lent Course 2009: Prayers for Lovers

Introduction - How to Pray

Pray to him daily

Psalm 72:15

This Lent course was written in response to requests from church-going friends who made observations such as: "I don't know how to pray", "When it comes to praying, I feel as if I am not doing my duty," and "When it comes to private prayer, I feel completely bewildered; I can never get rid of distractions." So this course is written from the standpoint of a fellow struggler.

The initial title was Prayer for Amateurs which contained an intended double meaning: strictly speaking amateur means someone who loves something but it has also come to represent the opposite of professional, the person who does something for love and not as part of a vocation or commercial transaction, somebody who is supposed to be less accomplished. Because of this, many Christians are frightened by prayer, thinking that they are incapable of it and that it is an activity confined to those who are professional or particularly holy. But thinking about amateurs I decided to change the title to Prayer for Lovers for three reasons:

Of course this analogy is only valid to a very limited extent in that it reflects perceptions from our 'side' of the relationship. It is the purpose of this course to help us to develop a deeper and more loving relationship with God - between lovers - by suggesting concrete ways in which we can 'improve our performance'.

The course is divided into five Units:

There is no ideal order for such a course as this and so I have chosen to arrange the Units so that the topics are presented in what I take to be an ascending order of difficulty in the hope that participants will steadily gain confidence as the material becomes more difficult.

Perhaps a note on the direction of prayer would be helpful. Strictly speaking, the Church follows the process laid down in the Gospel of John whereby we are enjoined to pray to The Father through The Son in the power of The Spirit. This makes sense to the extent that we are communicating with the ineffable through the medium of the recollection of the historical, concrete Jesus but it rather over-formalises a process set down before a full doctrine of the Trinity was crystallised in which all three 'persons' are equal. So although we might pray to The Father through The Son in the power of The Spirit, there may be times when we wish to pray to The Father in thanksgiving for creation, to The son for the strength to imitate him and the in The Spirit to give us strength for an impending crisis.

Naturally, this course is only a beginning; we must resolve to improve our tools and use them to improve our two-way communication with God, starting with this coming Holy Week.