A message from our Minister, The Rev Dr Neil Dougall - September 2018
The importance of just showing up.
Prayer is both easy and complicated. Anyone can pray and we can all deepen our prayer life. Prayer can be both spontaneous and structured.
We’re like Jesus disciples; we want to pray more. As they shared his life they saw how much he prayed. They realised that his poise and purpose flowed from his deep relationship with God. The peace he experienced, even when life was tough and painful, was because of prayer. That’s why, one day, one of them said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray’ (Luke 11:1 ).
There are many ideas about prayer and many books which discuss them. It is clear that there is NOT a secret to prayer waiting to be discovered. There isn’t a formula for us to discover or a mantra to recite. However, there are certain things we can do which will make our experience of prayer deeper and more meaningful.
One of these is neither sexy nor startling. In fact, it’s so simple it sounds hardly worth saying. It is the importance of just showing up.
Growing in prayer happens when we get into the habit of simply showing up. The writer Philip Yancey explains why this is
‘Much of the benefit of prayer comes as result of consistency, the simple act of showing up. The writer Nancy Maris says she attends church in the same spirit in which a writer goes to her desk every morning, so that if an idea comes along she’ll be there to receive it. I approach prayer the same way. Many days I would be hard-pressed to describe the direct benefit. I keep on, though, whether if feels as if I am profiting or not. I show up in the hope of getting to know God better, and perhaps hearing from God in ways accessible only through quiet and solitude.
‘For years I resisted a regular routine of prayer, believing that communication with God should be spontaneous and free. As a result, I prayed infrequently and with little satisfaction. Eventually I learned that spontaneity often flows from discipline. Leonardo da Vinci spent ten years drawing ears, elbows, hands and other parts of the body in many different aspects. Then one day he set aside the exercises and painted what he saw. Likewise, athletes and musicians never become great without regular practice. I found that I needed the discipline of regularity to make possible those exceptional times of free communication with God.
‘The English word ‘meditate’ derives from a Latin world which means ‘to rehearse’. Virgil speaks of a shepherd boy ‘meditating’ on his flute. Often my prayers seem like a kind of rehearsal. I go over basic notes (the Lord’s Prayer), I practise familiar pieces (the Psalms), and try out a few new tunes. Mainly, I just show up’.
(Prayer, Philip Yancey, 2006, p 158)
Is Yancey right? Might one of the essentials of prayer be getting into the habit of simply showing up? If so, what kind of pattern might you develop so that you are regularly showing up with God?
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples’. (Luke 11:1 )
To see other messages from Neil, click on the appropriate month in the table below.
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