When my children were young, I made a decision to spend some time early in the morning in prayer, long before the busyness of the day began. Prayer soon became an important part of my life, and over the years my understanding of the ways in which we can communicate with God in prayer has shifted, evolved, and changed.
I now no longer feel the need to always use words in prayer, and often I sit quietly, focus on one situation, or concentrate on one person, and pray. There are certain places that feel spiritual to me for all kinds of reasons, and that I am drawn to in order to pray.
I often visit art galleries, and exhibitions that are of interest, and I spend time looking at the images, and pictures. It is perhaps a combination of the silence, and the visual stimulation that allows me to open my mind, and to offer prayers for all kinds of things that are happening in our world, in community, and in the life of the church.
Regardless of the type of art, whether it is modern, and contemporary or classical, there are so many scenes, portraits, landscapes, images, sculptures that depict life in all its beauty, joy, pain, and suffering. Perhaps we identify, and have an appreciation for pieces of art simply because within the subject we see a glimpse of our own lives.
I have recently spent time reading, and studying Matthew’s gospel with a group of students from Shipley College. Matthew’s teaching on prayer is subtle and scattered throughout the gospel. Jesus’ instruction on prayer is rooted within the Sermon on the Mount, and known as ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ (Matt 6:9-13). This prayer quickly became known as the Christian model for prayer, and after more than two thousand years it is the prayer that Christians throughout the world still pray each day.
In many ways ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ is a simple prayer, it has both vertical, and horizontal parts to it as we pray to God that one day His Kingdom will come, and His will be done. We ask for God’s forgiveness, to be protected, and delivered from evil. However, we also pray that we will be able to forgive others, and forgiveness is an important theme throughout Matthew’s teaching of building a Christian life through his account of Jesus’ life.
Looking back, one of the most powerful Bible studies that I attended was a six-week study of ‘The Lord’s Prayer.’ Each week we concentrated on a few lines, and as in most study groups, it was interesting to hear different thoughts and opinions of how each part of this quintessential model of prayer was viewed by others.
There have been many times in my life when I have not known how to begin unpacking a problem, and in saying ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ it has served to open my mind to the ways that I could approach certain situations. I have sat in public places where I have heard people reciting ‘The Lord’s Prayer,’ and that too has had both a profound and moving effect on me.
Matthew’s Gospel has often encouraged me to understand that prayer is an essential part of my relationship with God, and that I need to keep praying in order to continue to build on that relationship.
My Grandmother used to say, “The more you pray the easier it gets.” For a long time I thought that the ‘it’ in my Grandmother’s mantra was to help those who found ‘it’ difficult to pray, but I’ve come to an understanding that the ‘it’ is actually life, as the more we pray, the more life often seems to get easier.
With every blessing,
Rev’d Caroline Andrews