It is funny how life has a habit of providing things to us just at the time we need them.
In the course of this Lent I have been thinking about how to pray: thinking about what I am trying to achieve through prayer and how to be more structured about it.
It was for this reason that I attended recently one of the meditation sessions run by Anthony Deavin at St. Andrew’s on alternate Monday afternoons.
His message was very straightforward – keep an open mind and keep it simple.
After about 5 minutes of listening to a recorded chant based on the letters in the name Jeshua (the Hebrew name for Jesus) we sat in silence for a further 25 minutes – together, yet alone with our thoughts.
After a quick stretch we made tea and a wide-ranging discussion ensued.
This approach seemed very refeshing and the session was spiritually cleansing and quite fulfilling, but I was left very much on my own and had been looking for something more in the way of structure and guidance, especially Christian guidance.
It was with this in mind that I picked up a small book called “Christian Meditation” by Laurence Freeman, OSB (if you look quickly you will still find a few copies at the back of both St Mary’s and St. Andrew’s)
Its thesis follows on from Anthony’s fundamental message of simplicity but puts it into a Christian context. The key elements for me at least are as follows:
What is prayer? The raising of the heart and mind to God
How should we pray? Be silent, be still, keep it simple
On Silence: “Silence in prayer as between two people is a sign of trust and acceptance”
On Stillness: Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10)
On Simplicity: We do not know how to pray but the spirit prays within us (Romans 8:26)
On meditation: “Between past and future, which are constructs of the mind, you find the present moment which is absolute reality”
The booklet contains munerous suggestions of mantras or passages on which to focus during prayer. Personally, in the course of this exploration I have rediscovered the power of the Lord’s Prayer, in traditional language, as I learned it at school, as a way to begin and a way to end.
- Our Father, which art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done,
in earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive them that 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.
It has become for me the bookends of my prayer and meditation, the start and the begining and much of the content for the in between.
Its power seems only to grow stronger through familiarity and repetition.
It was after all, the way that Jesus taught us to pray.