Another Church

At my bedtime prayer last night I felt I’d had a good day and was thankful to the Lord. I couldn’t think why the day felt so blessed, so I traced back over what I’d done. A reasonable day: ups and downs, but nothing special. A couple of points to be ashamed of. In the end I did find something.

I was in town to do some errands. I arrived at the library five minutes before it opened. Usual practice would be to go to one of my usual cafes, get a coffee, write some diary and watch the world go by (actually just the babes and milfs). The weather was exactly right. However, I dithered, I wandered, undecided without knowing it, like Buridan’s ass.

I found myself at a church. It was open but quiet. I walked around for a bit enjoying the atmosphere. I found a pew and sat down and prayed. Not for anything special. Not my bedtime prayer or my morning quiet time prayer, an extra unscheduled prayer. Sat calmly for a while. Made a donation. Left and got on with my day.

confirmation

I had a work meeting in County Town and I decided that while I was in town I would find time to go and pray in a church. This would be a first for me.

Aside:

I have been trying to establish a habit of daily prayer, with intermittent success. However, on 8th March I decided that I would say a special prayer daily for a friend. Among other things, this desire to pray specifically has reminded me to pray at all, and after saying my special prayer for the friend, I go on to say my “normal” prayer. So now I am safely praying every day (at bedtime, or at my morning quiet time when I arrive at work, or both).

The cathedral where I was planning to pray is a bit of a tourist trap and they have a greeter on the door doing triage. When I arrive the greeter asked brightly “Are you visiting?” and I said sheepishly that I was coming in to pray. Because the cathedral is such a tourist trap they have special areas set aside for private prayer (they do do normal services there too, it is a functioning church), and the greeter described the way to get to the chapel: in a corner, up a stone spiral staircase, …

(click for bigger pics!)

I realised I had no idea what to do. I lit a candle as a way of starting. I knelt on that little red cushion. I said my prayer out loud.

Praying like this — aloud, so I could hear my own voice; in public; in such a place; and of course for the first time in my life — was a powerful experience. I asked myself later why I didn’t pray my “normal” daily prayer or even a special prayer for myself. Perhaps I didn’t want to unleash too much emotion.

There was nobody else in the chapel while I was there. Mid-prayer I did hear footsteps come up the stair and into the room, shift about and then leave. Perhaps security or a stray tourist. I didn’t turn round to see and I kept praying. So — a complete unknown stranger saw and heard me praying!

A couple more pics of around the cathedral:

On the way out I thanked the greeter and we talked about what went on at the church. It became clear that I knew little about services, whether Easter Saturday was a special day, etc., and I found myself saying, “I’ve only recently got into all this”. I don’t know why I didn’t say something like, “I’ve only recently become a Christian”.

Samuel

Walking around the cathedral afterwards, I came across two pleasant surprises from Samuel. Firstly this mural of 2 Samuel 18:33

Then the gift shop had a copy of Straight to the Heart of 1&2 Samuel by Phil Moore (I’ve linked the Amazon page as it has a “look inside”; there’s also the author’s home page).

I bought the book obvs, and I am enjoying reading it.

Confirmation

Also in the gift shop I bought this Confirmation card:

I don’t know what “Confirmation” is in the Church of England, but coming here and praying felt like a confirmation (with a small ‘c’) and another step towards a real confirmation.

I know that real confirmation will involve “coming out of the closet” to my wife about being a Christian, and finding a local group to join.

Praying Psalm 145

Well I enjoyed that!

Thank you to Beth for the idea of praying by writing.
Thank you to Lisa for the “31 Days” idea.

The Psalm

Here are my prayers, verse-by-verse:

  1. I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name for ever and ever.
  2. Every day I will bless you and praise your name for ever and ever.
  3. Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.
  4. One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.
  5. On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
  6. They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness.
  7. They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness, and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
  8. The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
  9. The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.
  10. All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you!
  11. They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power,
  12. to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
  13. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
  14. The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.
  15. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.
  16. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
  17. The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.
  18. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
  19. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.
  20. The Lord preserves all who love him, but the wicked he will destroy.
  21. My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever.

Comments

I loved praying by writing. It meant I prayed consciously and with focus. I meditated on the verse and let it inspire me. I loved adoring God and Jesus.

The days I couldn’t manage to write, I felt it. I felt itchy and unhappy, like missing a new lover.

I wouldn’t like this to be a “habit”, but I would love to do it every day. Keep a little notebook with me I can pray in.

I love my silent praying too. Perhaps I am developing a repertoire of different kinds of praying: adoration (writing); meditation (my morning quiet times); reflection (my bedtime prayer). [in case I sound like a nun I should say I don’t always manage or remember to pray every day!]

I think a longer form of written praying might be powerful too, for supplication or for confession of sins (not for posting here of course!). I have kept a diary on-and-off since I was a kid and I have always found that helpful (my wife too, often tells me I am calmer when I write regularly). Writing to God instead of to myself would be interesting.

Next steps

  • Make sure I have the Psalm safely learnt. The first dozen or so verses are safe I think.
  • Keep writing to my new penpal.

My mouth will speak

The wicked he will destroy

Save me Oh Lord

The Lord is near

The Lord is righteous

I feed from your hand

The eyes of all

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