Pray as you can (August 2017 Article)

Reverend Lydia Smith writes

Recently there have been some articles in the press about how religious we are as a population. Looking at what’s going on in the world, it seems as if religion is an increasingly important aspect of our lives. Yet an academic study of attitudes to faith in the UK found that almost half of people in the UK ticked the no religion box. Reading the articles, what caught my attention was that about a quarter of those people who considered themselves “nones” – having no religious affiliation – also said that they prayed, many of them doing so at least once a month. This means that about half of the population – those who follow a religion – and those who don’t – regularly pray.

Prayer is a gesture of reaching out to something beyond us – reaching out hopefully in that we understand there is more to life that what’s immediately in front of us – reaching out faithfully in that we understand there’s something – or someone – out there – reaching out expectantly, hoping to connect, to receive.

This isn’t always easy – sometimes we find it hard to know what to pray or how to pray. Dom John Chapman, Abbot of Downside Abbey, offered people this advice: pray as you can, not as you cannot. When we pray together – whether that’s in church or in school assembly – or when we pray alone at home, we often use words. But this month, a team from our churches has been working with our local primary schools looking at ways of praying without words. In Layer de la Haye, Birch and Copford schools we’ve set up prayer spaces, learning to pray creatively with our hands as we made pictures, to pray silently in wonder as we thought about the amazing nature of our world.

Looking at the theme of transition, we’ve encouraged children to spend some time reflecting on the school year that’s just passed and looking forward to what lies ahead: the holidays and the start of a new school year. For some, the next academic year will be more of the same – a few adjustments, but mostly the same school building, the same uniform, the same friends. For others, and especially the year 6 children, the end of term brings the end of an era in their lives.

If you are someone who prays, with words or otherwise, in church or elsewhere, please remember the year 6 children from our villages as they prepare to start secondary school in September.

Best wishes

PS The picture is courtesy of Layer School and is of the Prayer Spaces event I mention in the article above.