Week 4 of Archbishop Cottrell’s Lent course continues on the theme of Jesus’ death and being forsaken, both Jesus and ourselves. It also considers the time of our death and how we might feel as we approach it. One of the questions at the end of the chapter for us to reflect on was, ‘What do we pray for?’ and some thoughts came to me that I would like to share with you.
For me, there is a big difference between private prayer and formal communal prayer, such as in the Sunday morning Holy Communion service or Morning Prayer services in the week.
The prayers at a formal service are time-honoured and structured around the Church year. We know that millions of Christians have prayed these prayers generation upon generation before us and are indeed still praying the various scheduled prayers at the same times as us today in our regular services.
I find these prayers very comforting, and it is a powerful force when Christians worldwide join together in the same prayers and themes for the various Christian seasons.
Prayer is an essential part of our spiritual lives that never ceases to amaze me, but what about when we are just with ourselves? Sometimes, when I am alone, I don’t know what to pray for; unless I am in a tight corner and it is obvious what I need, or should I say want!
I often feel uncomfortable about asking for things in personal prayer because when I count the many blessings in my life, I think, who am I to ask God to provide more – or rearrange my life, or those of others, to suit me better?
It is reasonable, I believe, to request direction from God, and I feel that I have had prayers answered in the form of guidance or reassurance. But I often struggle to know where to draw the line in praying for advice, and divine intervention!
Then, unexpectedly, all became clear to me in Chapter 4 of Archbishop Cottrell’s book Godforsaken because he recounts the story of someone who realised as they were approaching the end of their life that the only thing we really need to do in prayer is to thank God for all he has given us and all that will be.
That lifted my spirits considerably because I can easily offer prayers of thanks at any time of the day as I go about my life without feeling something should be happening as a result of my prayers. But I also feel God will know that I have been thanking him, and that fills me with beautiful, peaceful thoughts – what more could I ask for?
Archbishop Cottrell’s book ‘Godforsaken’ is available online or from your local bookshop.