Parish News : July 2022

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‘Whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray’ (Matthew 6.6)

The other day Clive and I went to eat out at a café. A family were sitting around a table eating a meal – nothing unusual about that, you might think. And then, on closer look I realise that they are not talking to each other, because each of them is looking down at something, and that something is their own mobile phone. The whole family – adults and children are focussed on something or other on the screen in front of them, so they are not attending to conversation with one another. A very modern scene, and sadly not an uncommon one. What could be a lovely meal of family togetherness was far from it, because everybody there is attending to other things. There’s no proper connection going on between them.

I wonder, could that be a picture of what our prayer life is like? If we’re really honest, how often does our prayer appear to others like it is happening fine, but scratch the surface, and we find it’s been taken over with other things, other distractions, which prevent us making proper connection with God?

Prayer is all about our relationship God, and God does not want anything to get in the way of that. God says we are to love his with all our heart and mind and soul and strength (Luke 10.27). And he wants us to be actively involved.

All too often I think we can approach prayer a bit like we might approach watching a programme on the telly – we sit there and observe it all, letting others do all the work of making it happen. But there are so many times I get to the end of a programme I have watched and I cannot remember any of it! Who was it they knocked out of the competition in this week’s episode? That’s because I’ve passively sat there, and not really entered into what was happening.

Prayer must never be like that. If we go through the motions of saying the right words, and appearing to do the right things, but do not actually engage with communicating with the Lord, then there is something going wrong. In that situation, the impact of the words prayed don’t hit home. There’s no real engagement in conversation with God. Because it’s the quality of the connection that matters.

Being able to make a connection is the biggest problem I have with prayer – and I suspect others do too. Prayer is about our connection with God and His will – and His connection with us and His leading of us. Jesus warns us not to pray for others to see (Matthew 6.5-6) If it’s a public display, then the human tendency is to think – ‘what do they think of me?’ – and maybe prayer could become a show, we sort of ‘act’ as if we were praying for the benefit of the audience, without properly connecting to God.

The only people who know if we are making a proper connection in prayer, is us – and God. It’s hard work. But it is the quality of that connection that matters. Let us each of us learn to dig deep and improve the quality of our relationship with God – closing the door to others and to distractions, and focussing on what we need to say to Him, and what He needs to say to us.

Tina Upton