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Viewpoint from Rt Rev Dr Alan Winton 16/08/2019

alan wintonRt Rev Dr Alan Winton
Bishop of Thetford


as published in the Great Yarmouth Mercury


An elderly lady complained to her parish priest saying “I can’t pray like I used to. I come here to church after my shopping and sit here all peaceful and quiet. But I can’t pray like I used to”
That story comes from a lovely little book about prayer that I’ve just come across by the wonderfully named Benignus O’Rourke called ‘Finding your Hidden Treasure’. It consists of 64 very short chapters – mostly two pages long – so it makes a perfect book to dip into each day for a couple of months
dove leftThe priest tried to explain that perhaps what the lady described was a positive thing, but she wasn’t convinced, it seemed that for her prayer needed to be more active and engaged
Maybe like many of us she’d been taught to ‘say’ her prayers. We are encouraged to buy books of written prayers, and in our churches it’s easy to get the feeling that the ones who pray longest and most eloquently are the ones we should be trying to emulate. But when Jesus taught about prayer in the Sermon on the Mount he warned against heaping up empty phrases saying that those who did so “think they will be heard because of their many words” (Matthew 6 v7)
And Jesus’ own practice of prayer seemed to be much more about escaping in the early morning from the busy nature of his life and the demands of the crowds to find a quiet place where he could be still and silent
Dove rightSo is being all peaceful and quiet enough?
I would never want to discourage anyone from praying, whatever form their prayers might take, and it’s not good to get into arguing that one form of prayer is better than another
But in my own practice, one of the descriptions of prayer that I’ve found really helpful is to see prayer as simply “becoming conscious of God’s presence”. We know that we don’t have to go somewhere special to pray, nor do we have to go on a quest to find God. God is always present around us and within us. In fact, O’Rourke wants to say that God is the hidden treasure present within us, simply waiting for us to become conscious of his loving presence
In this often busy, anxious life, finding a way of being all peaceful and quiet might just enable us to become truly conscious of the presence of the God who loves us more than we can imagine
+ Alan Thetford



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