'Helps' to prayer
I wrote last time of a more reflective approach to prayer, and mentioned giving yourself time to rest into stillness. Not everyone finds that easy! This time I’ve got a few suggestions of things that might help.
If you can find the right place that will help. I do have the privilege of praying regularly in church, where my predecessors have prayed for over 250 years! You’re welcome to come and pray in church whenever it’s open, but you may need to find a more personal place. Many people find that (for the deliberate time of prayer you set aside) it helps to have a regular place to pray in. It should be somewhere as quiet as possible, and with a chair on which you can sit comfortably but without danger of falling asleep! There are prayer stools which some people find helpful – have a word with me if you’d like to know more.
If your ‘prayer place’ can have somewhere to rest your Bible, and space for a candle and perhaps a cross, an icon, flower or something else to look at, that would be great.
Disciplined prayer does need time set apart, and most people find it helpful (when it’s possible) to have a regular time of day in which to pray. Find your own best time – it may depend on your own rhythms (whether you’re most awake in the mornings or the evenings) or your family or work circumstances. If there are others in the house, agree with them when you can have a few minutes undisturbed. Don’t try to set aside too long a time. You’ll find it harder to keep to, and probably a struggle to use well if you do manage – to begin with, at least.
Looking at something, or perhaps listening to music, can be helpful especially as we settle in to prayer.
I mentioned a candle, and other things to look at. Many people find that lighting a candle helps to mark out a ‘special’ time, and that looking at its flame while thinking of Christ, the light of the world, helps us to be still and at peace. An icon is a particular kind of spiritual painting, representing Jesus, God or one of the saints and symbolising their presence with us. A cross reminds us of God’s love for us in Jesus; something natural is another good possibility to help us to think and pray.
Another thing which often helps is something to do. To use the beads of a rosary can be a good way of concentrating, and you don’t need to use the traditional Roman Catholic prayer, the ‘Hail Mary’ if you’re not comfortable with it. If you’d like to explore prayer with a rosary or other forms of prayer beads, ask me for a bit of advice.
You may or may not find it helpful to pray with someone else. You don’t need to talk – you can pray side by side in silence if that’s more helpful. But it may well help to have a friend to whom you can at least talk about prayer and about how God is at work in your life. Why not make it an early part of your prayer to ask God to bring you together with the right person to support one another in this?
I hope that something in this article helps you to develop your own prayer and your friendship with God. Please do let me know if it does!
The Rev’d Nick Watson