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Bishop Richard's Weekly video Message - Transcript 09.11.2023

Video for November 9th, 2023

Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s video.

We haven’t quite finished our year of prayer yet and this week I return to some themes about prayer that I have found helpful.  God has made us with an enormous variety of temperaments. Some are extraverted, some introverted; some more intuitive, some more linear in their thinking; some make decisions very rationally, others bring a broader emotional perspective. Its unsurprising therefore that there is no one size fits all in our prayer life.  Not only that, but our lives go through seasons as we grow and change.  A mode of relating to God that worked for us 20 years ago may not now, and vice versa.  One of the motivations behind our prayer workshops in the year of prayer has been to encourage exploration of different ways of praying.  This has been a rich experience for those who’ve attended.

My own prayer journey has been varied.  I was first taught to pray using the mnemonic ACTS, which stand for adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication.  It is a good rhythm of prayer starting with worship and working outwards to asking God for things. As I was drawn into Anglican ministry I discovered the value of the daily offices of morning, evening and midday prayer and compline, something that continues as a part of my prayer discipline, although majoring on the first of these.

The danger of this is that spontaneity and silence can be squeezed out. The brief rubric ‘silence may be kept at this point’ is often peremptory at best. It can become a tick box exercise if one forgets that the goal of prayer is deepening communion with God rather than the performance of liturgical drama.  The corresponding danger with extemporary forms of prayer is that they can become highly subjective.  Liturgical prayer grounds us in the scriptures and provides a safe scaffolding to constrain the wildest extremes of our imagination.

When we pray the offices together there is usually an indicated time for silence after we pray, “the night has passed, and the day lies open before us; let us pray with one heart and mind.” There usually little time for much silence when we pray the office together.  However, when I pray morning prayer at home, I extend this point significantly. Sometimes for longer silence, sometimes the Jesus prayer and sometimes a prayer I learned from Doctor Larry Crabb, the Papa prayer. This is a simple mnemonic to focus on relationship with God. P stands for present. Rather like the red dot you see on a map in shopping centre stating, “You are here.” We’re invited to present ourselves to God without pretence; to be real about all that it going on inside us. The A stands for attending to how you are thinking about God; how you are experiencing God right now.  Are you thinking of him as a kindly grandfather, a frowning father, or even as a glorified spiritual vending machine. To what extent is he your good, strong and intimate Father?  The second P stands for purge.  Purgation sounds unpleasant but has a long tradition in Ignatian spirituality. It is to rid yourself of everything that is blocking your relationship.  The prayer invites us to put into words whatever makes you uncomfortable or embarrassed when the real you prays to God.  How are you thinking about yourself and your satisfaction more than anyone else, including God and his pleasure and will?  We name it, repent of it and receive forgiveness.  The final A stands for approaching God as the first thing in your life.  It’s a way of acting on Jesus command to seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you from the Sermon on the Mount. Is God our most valuable treasure, or something else? I find this particularly challenging.  Most of the time pleasing God isn’t the first thing in my life at all!

I’ve found this PAPA structure helpful because the very word gets us closer to Jesus’ invitation for us to call God Father.  Abba is a difficult word to translate – more formal than daddy, but less formal than father.  I do commend the PAPA prayer to you as another way of prayer that might be helpful. Present yourself to God; Attend to how you are thinking of God; Purge yourself of anything blocking your relationship with God, and leave the time resolving to Approach God as the first thing in your life.

Have a go and let me know how you get on in the Facebook comments.

+ Richard

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