On Prayer

Saturday 28th September 2013
Holy Trinity, Hurstpierpoint

There is a kind of reaction to Christianity which wants to make practising it more difficult so that we become more worthy. I have been guilty of this over the years by thinking that it's a bit wimpish to pray for the things I want. It's all right praying for others; and it's all right praising and thanking and saying sorry; but praying for myself? No.

Well, I've changed my mind, not because I have suddenly entered a period of crisis - although becoming old does raise a peculiar set of issues in which health and illness play an increasingly important part - but because I came to realise that refusing to pray for myself was a kind of pride.

The starting point, of course, is that God prays through us. We are, in a mysterious way, God's instruments of prayer; and what makes this not so much a paradox as a mystery is that we were made to pray; that is our proper function and, what is more, we were made to pray freely, to choose to pray as part of our freedom to love.

Secondly, we need to remind ourselves - although we know it when we think about it - that when we pray for something we are not telling God what God doesn't know; we aren't journalists. Neither are we trying to bend God's will. Picking up my earlier theme, what we are doing - and this looks like a paradox - is choosing freely to do what we were predestined to do. God is giving us the longing that God wishes to fulfil. IN the words of one of my favourite theologians, Herbert McCabe: "It is God who prays. Not just God who answers prayers but God who prays in us in the first place. In prayer we become the locus of the Father and the Son".

Having got some of the theology not so much out of the way as in the centre of our thoughts, let me make a few brief remarks about our kind of prayer:

It is our privilege to stand before God and represent the needs of 'his' faithful people; and while we should not be overawed, we should be humble in the face of the unfathomable complexity of our world and the unfathomable 'mind' of God.