Prayer at St Aldhelm’s
Prayer underpins everything we do at St Aldhelm’s. Along with worship and the sacraments, prayer is what feeds us, sustains us and allows us to reflect on our own lives and the lives of others in the presence of God. Prayer is both an activity and a way of living out one’s entire life. Prayer can be formal or informal, verbal or nonverbal, active or contemplative. Prayer is communicating with God. Just as we talk and share with our best friends what is happening in our lives, so we talk and share with God. Just as we listen to our friends, so we listen to God.
As in human communication, our communication with God can be expressed in a variety of ways. We communicate with God using words and songs, in imagination and silence, and ritually or spontaneously. We can pray in church, our gardens, our cars, or while in the shower. We can also pray lying in bed, as the first thing we do when we awake, and as the last thing we do as we drift off to sleep. Every moment of the day, all our hopes, works, joys, and sufferings, can become our prayer.
Prayer is something we do a lot of at St Aldhelm’s and this leaflet aims to explain a few of the varies ways in which we pray and to tell you when there is opportunity for corporate prayer in the church.
This is prayer that is done publicly on behalf of a group or congregation. This kind of prayer is prayer shared between the body of Christ on earth and those who have died in the faith of Christ. It connects us also with all Christians throughout the world, the mystical body which is the Church. There is a strength in corporate prayer because we are supported by one another and our shared concerns and thanks bring unity. Corporate prayer often include set, written prayers. There is nothing wrong with the use of such prayers. The Lord’s Prayer is given as a set prayer. Many of the prayers within scripture are intended to be repeated. The greatest source of set prayer comes from the psalms.
Every Sunday we have intercessions, the best known form of corporate prayer. The aim of these prayers, spoken on behalf of the community is to respond to deep human instinct, respond to a Biblical invitation, share with God the concerns of the world and to grow in relationship with God.
Vocal or extemporary prayer is giving voice to what is stirring in our hearts and in our souls. Vocal prayer can be as simple and uplifting as “Thank you, God, for this beautiful morning.” It can be as formal as the words of the Eucharist. It can be as calm and soft as words whispered to a friend and it can be as intense and immediate as the prayer Jesus uttered in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Not my will, but yours be done.” In extemporary prayer we do not know necessarily what words will come to us so we allow God to guide the words we pray. Because extemporary prayer is often a spontaneous emotional response not all extemporary prayers make perfect sense, indeed we may not be able to find the right words to express what it is we want to say, but we trust that God has greater insight as to what we mean than we may do ourselves.
Meditation & Contemplative Prayer
When we rest quietly in God’s presence, we engage in contemplation. In contemplation we spend time with God in wordless silence, aware that he is with us reflecting and thinking or just relaxing. When we experience God personally, we feel his love and wait for him to speak to us in his own way. The key is to make time to relax and listen in God’s presence, to seek union with the God who loves us. We enter into God’s sacred time and space and know that He is with us at all times and in all places.
When we meditate, a variety of things can help us to concentrate and to spark our imaginations. We may use Scripture, a candle or religious images. To pray in this way you will need to set aside some time. Sit comfortably but alert, relax your whole body and seek to become quiet. Then ask the Holy Spirit to pray within you.
You can pray anywhere but within the church there is a special prayer corner where you will find items which may help you to pray and more information on prayer. There is a candle stand where individual candles can be lit as a symbol of pray. There is also a prayer board where petitions can be placed. You may also request members of the church to pray for you or those you love through the website.