Prayer in private

April 17, 2010 at 2:47 pm 1 comment

But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:6)

The trouble is, what if your experience of private prayer time is too often a lonely furrow? What if the thing you value most in prayer, the thing that seems to release in you a sense of authentic prayer, is the experience of “two or three gathered in [Christ’s] name” (Matthew 18:20)?

At present I’m on a training weekend, meeting up with colleagues and friends old and new. The time spent “away from the coal face” and among my peers is invariably refreshing and energising; it’s good to be here, and to be ministered to. And the worship, the prayer, is a big part of that.

There’s also another training weekend happening at the same venue. And the plan was that some of our worship times would be within our course groups, and some would be shared. But somewhere along the line, there’s been a hiccup in communication… the upshot being that this morning, the other group were in the chapel and we were invited to do our prayer time individually.

How very odd it felt – disempowering, even – to be kept out of the chapel. And sure, we can pray and do our devotions by ourselves, it’s no great deprivation. Except that it’s not what I was looking forward to, it’s not the little parcel of nourishment that I was hoping or expecting to find.

When Jesus advised going off to pray behind closed doors, he was speaking principally against a showy or ostentatious prayer-practice with its risks of self-aggrandisement and hypocrisy. And those dangers are still there, for ministers just as much as for others in the church (perhaps more so). But equally, the assumption that ministers will feel entirely comfortable and self-sufficient in praying alone carries a similar risk of allowing ourselves to be portrayed as spiritual superheroes. And if we’re not careful,m we might start believing the caricature.

It’s not that I need to be leading prayer (far from it!), nor even that I really want to be prayed for, but rather that I would like to be prayed with.

In a cultural context where an individualised spirituality seems more attractive, more ‘meaningful’ than corporate prayer and worship, perhaps my feeling somewhat out-at-sea when left to pray alone means I’m swimming against the tide. But I for one don’t want to “neglect the habit of meeting together” (Hebrews 10:25), for prayer every bit as much as for fellowship. Introvert that I so often can be, it’s in prayerful company that I feel able to grow, to be present to God.

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Entry filed under: bible, church, faith, journalling, worship. Tags: , , , , .

A Song – a Prayer – for Holy Week The community of the incompatible

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Pam  |  April 20, 2010 at 7:39 am

    I too feel “all-at-sea” when left to pray alone. I’m not much better praying in company though so this year I have “volunteered” to be one of the prayer leaders at our evening service. This has been good for thinking deeply about prayer and about prayer as the engine room of a church. Also, takes me out of self-absorption and starts me focussing of others’ needs.
    btw, your last posting “if it be your will” with Webb Sisters singing -amazingly great!!

    Reply

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