Exploring How We Pray – Rev Dr Melinda Cousins
One of the great joys of my role of leading our Accredited Ministry Formation program is spending time with our candidates talking about and practicing various tools for spiritual attentiveness. Over the last few months, we have been exploring various types of prayer. We’ve used both ancient and modern tools and frameworks to help us.
As we learn from others, we grow our own vocabulary and breadth of expression of prayer. Different people find different practices helpful at different times. It’s also good for us to step out of our comfort zones and explore new ways of engaging with God, whether alone or in community. You might find some of the expressions of prayer we have been exploring spark your interest or resonate with your experience.
Lectio Divina, or ‘divine reading’, is a practice of slowing down and spending time with a biblical text, reading, meditating, praying, and living it. We’ve done this individually, as a group, using an app, and on our recent Prayer Day, together in the bustle of the city in response to the world around us.
A Prayer of Awareness encourages us to walk back through the previous 24 hours to see where Jesus has been in our midst, noticing how we have responded to him and when we might not have recognised his presence. We have done this as a guided exercise, with the leader taking us slowly through the times of the day, leaving plenty of time for individual reflection.
We’ve used a Centring Prayer, where we begin a time of listening to God by naming and writing down all the things on our mind – the people we care about, the questions we are mulling over, the things on our to-do lists, the worries and joys we are carrying. We trust God to hold these for us for a time, so that we can enter a time of stillness, solitude and silence in His presence.
Simple symbolic acts, physical postures, and making use of space can all help us express our prayers in different ways. We have knelt together, listened to music and devotional reflections, lit candles, walked, enjoyed the sunshine, and explored the beauty of a Cathedral. On our previous annual prayer day, we visited the Fly Bird Fly art studio at Westcare, where Andrew McDonough encouraged us to paint in prayer, a practice some of us found more difficult than others!
Jesus’ disciples asked him to teach them how to pray. May we continue to ask him the same question. And may we keep listening to one another and those who have gone before us as we explore the breadth of ways we can be praying.