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Holy Habits (lite) Prayer 1) Sermon

5th March 2023: WMC
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You will find the full text of Keith's sermon preached on Sunday 5th March below.

This was the first service focussing on Holy Habits – Prayer.


So we come to the first of our Holy Habits (lite!) with the theme for the next three months being prayer.

I wonder what comes to mind when the word prayer is mentioned? How do you pray, when do you pray, have you a favourite prayer?

This holy habit, like the other 9 we will be looking at over the next couple of years is not seeking to make us feel guilty, or inadequate, but rather to help us to build on and develop what we have and what we do..

I can't help feel that sometimes we can make the notion of prayer far too complicated.

After all, prayer is not and never has been about being able to pray in the language of angels, or with the soaring cadences of the King James Bible – rather prayer is a way of being, it is about the very breath of life itself.

Prayer is simply a conversation, albeit a conversation with God.

It is a time in which we wait upon him and listen to him, even as we share our concerns, our joys, our worries and our hopes.

Prayers can be as raw as the anxious cry from our hearts in the midst of all that we face, as messy as when we find it impossible to put what we feel into words or describe our feelings and emotions, or it can be as old and familiar as a well loved and precious prayer of our past which we come back to so often.

In our acts of public worship we are aware that prayer takes on many forms –

ADORATION – a time of praising God for being God – and in doing so, we reorientate ourselves in his presence finding ourselves being transformed – we see the bigger picture as we allow our attention to turn away from us to him.

CONFESSION – A time when having lovingly gazed at God we become aware of who we are and of those things we have done or spoken that we shouldn't along with the things that we should have but didn't.

THANKSGIVING – a time when we reflect on all that we have received from God – as we become aware of his generosity towards us – there is so much that we have to be thankful for.

SUPPLICATION/INTERCESSION – to pray for the needs of others and the world.

Our prayers that we say in our acts of worship and Sunday services are however, just part of our on-going conversation with God. These that are made and said corporately and in public are also simultaneously both private and personal as well.

I remember being challenged by a young muslim boy when visiting a Primary School as part of my schools work when in London. He would have been in either year 5 or 6.

He simply asked me how many times a day I pray? He of course coming from a tradition that has 5 set times of prayer every day.

I wonder is prayer about how many times a day we pray, or is it about how we live our lives?

I can't but wonder if what we are being called to is a new way of living – one that is shot through with prayer and in which we are conscious of prayer being part and parcel of all that we do, say and are.

So rather than our days being punctuated by times of prayer at set periods, our days are filled with an on-going, never ending, constant stream of prayer, which in turn, fills and inhabits our words, our deeds and our actions.

In the support material for Holy Habits there is 'A prayer for the day' itself inspired by the poem 'Sheep Fair Day' by Kerrie Hardy:

See what you make of this....

"Come with me today, God:
Walk with me and the dog to collect the paper – listen to birds, notice the new colours in the flower beds, greet the people we meet regularly on this road.
Listen to the radio with me over breakfast – feel the frustration with politicians who will not answer questions, laugh at the banter between presenters who have become old friends.
Sit in the car with me as I drive to a meeting – learn patience with other drivers in the rush hour, watch the speed as we go down the motorway, talk through the agenda in advance and think about the people we are going to meet.
Walk with me through the city – notice the ones who are striding and confident and the ones who shuffle, the ones who sell the Big Issue or are even now rolling up the sleeping bag they have slept on the pavement in; agonise over whether to give or not? Have we got change? Have we got time to stop?
Sit with me and my planning group – enjoy our growing friendship and trust in each other, listen as we focus and digress by turns, share our excitement at a good event coming together.
Come home with me and collapse on the settee with the iPad, checking Facebook and emails, listening to H's day and wondering what we will eat this evening: one of the children has had a difficult time at work – feel the knot of worry at the pit of the stomach that will not rest until I speak with her myself.
Join me in doing bits of housework – hanging washing and tidying up and, if it's fine, some gardening (weeding mainly, picking fruit if there is some, picking courgettes and wondering what we are going to do with them all).
Then sit down with H and the dog and some knitting to watch something on the television – feel smug when we answer the questions on University Challenge or Only Connect, work out who the murderer is, and despair once again at the state of your world.
So, at the end of the day, when I replay it before you, I will know that you have been there, that you are with me, loving, caring, challenging reassuring and I can rest in your peacefulness until the new day dawns. Amen."

I wonder what you made of that?

This is of course nothing new, Brother Lawrence who lived in the seventeenth century in France – spoke of 'The practice of the presence of God', in which he would converse and pray with God in the midst of the mundane tasks that were his working in the kitchens of the monastery in which he lived and served.

Within the experience of Celtic Christianity, everyday tasks and chores are accompanied by prayer

Milking Prayer
Bless, O God, my little cow,
Bless, O God, my desire;
Bless Thou my partnership
And the milking of my hands, O God.
Bless, O God, each teat,
Bless, O God, each finger;
Bless Thou each drop
That goes into my pitcher, O God!

Blessing of the Kindling
I will kindle my fire this morning
In the presence of the holy angels of heaven.
Without malice without jealousy, without envy,
Without fear, without terror of any one under the sun,
But the Holy Son of God to shield me.

So I wonder how our lives might be transformed, our experience of God deepened and our impact on the world more noticeable if we approached our daily living in such a way.

A way in which our every action, word and deed are awash though with prayer, enabling our focus to be more closely aligned with God, which in turn, gives us a clearer divine perspective.

In this world, would a never ending conversation with God, a day filled with prayer, make us less impatient, more tolerant and far calmer and fulfilled, more appreciative of God's creation and providence and to see more clearly his reflection in the faces of all those that we meet.

I wonder indeed!


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