When we pray together this weekend three things will happen:
We will be bound into community. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray he told them to begin "Our father" not "My father". All the personal pronouns in the Lords prayer are plurals. We shouldn't be surprised at this, for the revelation of God has always been given to communities - Israel, the disciples, the Church - and its implications worked out by communities. We can't pray together without realising again that we are -each of us -an integral part of that millennia old unfolding of God's purposes for humanity.
We will receive. Amongst the resources John has distributed for the weekend is a notebook in which people are invited to jot down any thoughts, insights, inspirations, observations, hopes, fears, dreams or other significant happenings from their time of openness to the Holy Spirit. This act of listening and receiving is centre of what we are doing this weekend. Prayer is never about trying to persuade the Almighty to jiggle the laws of the universe a bit in our favour or about giving God advice on how things might unfold from this point onwards. Prayer is an acknowledgement that no matter how difficult things might appear at the moment, the universe has direction and meaning; life is unfolding around us in a purposeful way and those purposes are most clearly seen in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Finding out in some detail what those purposes are involves us not so much in an act of learning, as an act of unlearning. To pray we need to let go. The various methods of prayer are all tools doing the same job: encouraging us to be quiet for long enough to attune ourselves to the deep rhythms of the universe and to the great mind which created all things and sustains all things.
Things will change. When we place ourselves before all that is most true and most holy and we focus our intentions and our wills, changes occur. The world will change, but primarily, we will change. We will lose some of the fog that blinds us to the truth of what it is that God is doing; of the gifts and strengths already amongst us, sufficient for all that we are required to do; of the continuing presence of the Holy Spirit who sustains, comforts and strengthens. The greatest change will be that we will see more clearly how we are to act. To pray is to risk being challenged and called - the scariest and most exciting risk I know.
O Lord, who has not stopped forming us since the hour of our beginning;
Who has come among us to save us from ourselves and teach us to love;
Who dwells beside us and within us and below us and above us,
Give us the grace to think again.
May we know the joy of true discipleship;
May our relationships with you and with each other be real and deep;
May we have the courage to give our best for the least.
In the name of Jesus our Lord.