Did You Hear the One About…? 40 Days with Cartoon Church
Day 33 – Friday after 5th Sunday of Lent
From the Scriptures:
[Jesus] was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’
He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.’
Sister Gillian OHP, now at rest, when at St Benedict’s House in Johannesburg floored me with a question that has challenged me every day since she first asked it.
During a series of conferences about the foundation and resourcing of The Institute for Christian Spirituality, she stopped me as we were walking into chapel and asked, ‘Father Andrew, how do you pray?’ My response was that she was the expert; after all if anyone is an expert in praying surely a nun is one such? But she persisted. ‘No, for us it is easy, the bell is rung and we go to chapel. Who rings your bell?’
I have been forever grateful for that conversation in the South African sun in a place where I learnt much about the deep love of The Beloved. To this day, when times are stormy or I am listless, in my minds eye I listen for the sound of the bell calling me to prayer. Sometimes I even imagine that is Sister Gillian looking down on me from her eyrie in Paradise pulling on the clapper saying, ‘Come on Father Andrew, its time to get on your knees!’
In churches that are formed by a liturgical tradition, so that no part of creation is neglected from the intercessions, there tends to be a set order of topics about which prayer is made. Most intercessions will include prayer for the unity of the church and her leaders, for peace amongst the nations of the world and their governments, for the proper care and stewardship of creation and those affected by natural disaster, for the members of the church in their ‘diverse needs’, and for those who have recently died and those who mourn their passing.
One would think this were enough of a list for any gathering of Christians but, the simple statement, ‘We pray for the world’ will produce an enormous number of responses, only a few of which may meet the intentions of the person leading the prayers. Have a look at the cartoon again and see how each thought bubble, though a simple drawing with obvious meaning – a sandwich, a phone, a sunrise – can be summed up in the phrase, ‘We pray for the world’.
In fact even looking at just one of the thoughts provokes multiple prayers. Look at the sandwich. Is it a prayer that the hungry of the world be fed or that the person praying is considering with whom to share their food, a prayer for strength to eat only what is needed or a decision to volunteer to help provide food for the soup kitchen? One small picture: so many worlds within it.
To be honest it does not really matter how or for what we pray in the intercessions so long as we are honest in our prayers. To do this I find the best way to begin is to consciously place myself in the presence of ‘The Other’ and ask that my thoughts be drawn away from myself and ‘Towards Others.’
But there is no right or wrong way of praying, for no honest words can grieve the Beloved’s heart, only choosing to not speak with Him can do that… For many people the advice of Dom John Chapman, in his profound ministry of spiritual guidance from Downside Abbey in the first part of the 20th Century, said it all:
‘Pray as you can, not as you can’t’
Or to bring that phrase into the words of the current Archbishop of Canterbury;
A longer prayer today so maybe settle down with it when you have some extra time to pray it.
Our Father, who art in heaven…
you are also at home in the air, the soil, the forests, and the oceans.
hallowed be thy name…
by the care we take of your creation.
Your kingdom come…
all that you see is good.
your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…
your will to till and care.
Give us this day our daily bread…
that all may have sufficient to live life in fullness.
Forgive us our trespasses…
our greed, our exploitation, our lack of concern for other species and for future generations.
As we forgive those who trespass against us…
by reconciliation with justice and peace.
Lead us not into temptation…
the temptation to equate dominion with exploitation.
And deliver us from evil…
the evil of destroying your gift of creation.
For yours is the kingdom…
yours Lord, not ours.
The power and the glory…
in the cross and the resurrection.
For ever and ever…
you were the beginning and you are the end.
Amen. And so be it.
Eco-Congregation England and Wales
- If you are not someone who leads the prayers in your church consider volunteering to lead them.
- If you are someone who leads the prayers in your church consider how you might allow your sisters and brothers in Christ space for their own prayers in the middle of the prayers you lead.
Here are some suggestions:
Add space for silence (into which prayers can be breathed), Collect prayer notes from people gathering for worship,
Ask people to say ‘one word prayers’ in the middle of corporate prayer.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are leading an initiative called ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ asking Christians to pray for their friends to come to know Jesus in the time between Ascension Day and Pentecost. A simple request that can be answered by many.
Details and many resources to help your prayer life may be found here:
All Cartoons are copyright © Dave Walker. Please visit http://www.cartoonchurch.com if you would like to laugh even more J
Prayers are from the collection ‘Praying with the World Church’ compiled by USPG.
Please support their work by visiting http://www.uspg.org.uk
Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
These Reflections, ‘Did You Hear the One About…’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2017