Posted on May 17th, 2017
Our latest guest blogger Rosey Feuell writes about the importance of praying as we can, in ways that resonate with our lives ‘times on the seashore, over coffee before my big shop, in a place where I might study or read.’
As the light of the morning in a cloudless sky… I will awaken the dawn…
So says King David in certain Old Testament prayers (2 Samuel 23:4; Psalm 57) – so suggests my chosen picture for this blog, but for me these exalted stretchings out to God tend to come at altogether different times. Imagine it’s a crisp summer morning, with dew on the fragile opening flowers, and promise of a warm, unclouded day ahead. How wonderful to lift one’s arms towards heaven, breathe deeply and pray to my loving Lord and Father. If only… yet for me this is not the main story. I don’t find these easy times to pray. I am always vulnerable and wobbly in the dawn, subdued when waking on dark winter days, but far securer in the dusk, - so later praying is almost always better: perhaps on the train, after lunch, even before or after dinner. I don’t necessarily raise my arms either, though I love to open my hands out to receive from God, to move decisively to Him for His help and blessing, and that deep sense of affirmation without which I cannot live – and which no one else has ever given me, maybe never will. I might pray at my worktable, Bible and papers strewn around, some simple preparation behind me, wild longings coming up to meet the One Who knows all and nevertheless cares, Who corrects and creates again and again in me and for me.
I think we all have ways we like to pray, and ways and times we cannot easily make much of, though in lovely surroundings with strong hopes before us it may be possible to meet God without making this weariness the main prayer or its background melody. It’s important to pray as we can, not as we can’t. I spent years trying to pray in the early mornings, feeling guilty when I couldn’t and when I simply didn’t even get up in time to attempt this or anything else. The real gift for me has been finding a whole host of ways to connect with God, usually through the Scripture I so love – ways that may or may not correspond to time-worn and heavily inculcated traditions. So there are times on the seashore, over coffee before my big shop, in a place where I might study or read – for my heart is also in my studying, and I am as open to God there as anywhere.
The great discovery of spiritual direction has been that one genuinely grows into that liberty to pray in the ways that work best, that are instinctive and life-giving, joyous for one’s particular experience, and not just conforming to another’s patterns. I am free to develop a guilt-free personal approach to my praying, not a hard-won, unnatural copy of somebody else’s.
It’s important to keep the “permission” of that ever before me, especially when helping others in prayer. There are so many ways in which we can release others to explore prayer for themselves: with minimal resources, with nature, Scripture, ongoing personal concerns, images and objects. It can be lonely listening to others’ prayer struggles and feeling unsure how to help, where to push the craft on through the surf, or to let out the slack in order that the sails can furl into the wind in tune with Christ beckoning the person. It has to be good to talk about some of the possible and known approaches to prayer with other spiritual directors and similar people who accompany others, share perspectives – above all, learn how to be courageous in the task of reassuring others that it is promising to pray one’s own way and to look to God for responses and insights for this inner journey. Happily we know that people will be piloted on by Christ, and not exclusively by us. Our own understanding of this is likely to keep our touch light and our “alongsider” role fresh, fruitful and freeing.