Finding a rhythm of prayer


In their announcement about the decision to suspend public worship gatherings, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York wrote that: 'Our life is going to be less characterised by attendance at church on Sunday, and more characterised by the prayer and service we offer each day.'

What does it mean to have a life characterised by prayer? When life is at its busiest, we tend to cram prayer into one corner of the day, setting aside a few minutes either first thing in the morning or last thing at night. But things are different now. For now, our days have spaces they never used to have.

How might we re-imagine our prayer lives in the light of this new 'normal'? Monastic communities have been self-isolating for centuries: living lives full of work, study, service and caring, all held steady by rhythms of prayer. They would punctuate their days with prayer. Whenever the monastery bell rang, they would stop what they were doing and step away to pray. Many communities still live that way today. As our lives change shape in this strange new season, so our prayer and worship must also change shape. That may be disconcerting at first, but it may also open the way to an uncommonly rich time of drawing near to God and connecting (non-physically of course) with one another.

Below is an outline for a prayer rhythm which you might find helpful as you step into your ‘new normal’. It’s a ‘rich’ rhythm: rich in the sense that you can remember it by the letters R, I, C, H; rich in the sense that it’s adaptable and can be filled out with any number of other resources; and rich in the sense that it may be a way of enriching your days at a time when life may feel smaller and more claustrophobic.

Here’s how it works …

Morning               Read: read the Bible and take time in God’s Word

Lunch-time         Intercede: for your local community, for the church and for the world

Dinner-time        Connect: contact 4 or 5 people you haven’t seen that day to hear their news and needs.

Bed-time             Hope: Rest your soul in a time of thankfulness for today and faith for tomorrow

The following sections give some ideas to help you adapt this rhythm for your own situation, with links to useful resources. The first four sections give ideas for the four elements of the ‘RICH’ rhythm, and the final section is a collection of other websites where you can find prayer resources which might be helpful in planning your online services and prayer times.

NB. There are two resources with ideas for how children and adults can pray together. Both are listed in the ‘General Resources’ section at the end of this guide, but they include activities which could be used for any of the four RICH focuses.

Read

Whether you’re reading the Bible in paper form or on screen, there are various ways to nourish yourself in the Word of God:

  • Use the Lectionary readings for the day. One of the easiest ways to access these is via the Church of England’s ‘Daily Prayer’ app.

www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/join-us-service-daily-prayer

  • Choose to read the Bible in a translation you’re less familiar with. It helps you see things you’ve never seen before.

  • As well as reading the Bible, use books and podcasts to deepen your understanding of how to hear God’s voice through Scripture.

    • There’s a lot to read and listen to out there, but you could start here, at SCM’s ‘Theology in Isolation’ blog:

scmpress.hymnsam.co.uk/blog

  • Use Lectio Divina – an ancient practice for discerning what God is saying to you through the Bible. There are many resources out there, but here’s a simple explanation:

www.ignatianspirituality.com/listening-for-god-in-scripture/

  • There are many apps and websites which offer a daily Bible reading and prayer focus. Here are some of the most popular:

    • Bible in One Year – daily readings with a thought for each day:

www.bibleinoneyear.org/

  • Sacred Space - prayers, Scripture and reflection in words and music:

www.sacredspace.ie/

  • Lectio 365 - daily prayer and Bible reflections from 24-7 Prayer, written and audio format:

www.24-7prayer.com/dailydevotional

  • Pray as you go - daily prayer and Scripture reflection in audio format:

pray-as-you-go.org/prayer%20tools/

  • Take Time – a selection of Ignatian meditations in audio format:

taketime.org.uk/

Intercede

The world is vast and so are its needs. Your lunch-time interceding may be for situations close to home or on the other side of the world. Here are some ways to focus your prayers, so that the task doesn’t become overwhelming.

  • Many Christians around the world stop at noon every day to pray the Lord’s Prayer, so you could begin or end there.

  • Use our Diocesan Calendar of Prayer, which has a different church/topic to pray for each day.

www.canterburydiocese.org/our-life/prayer/prayer-resources/calendar-of-prayer/

  • You could use the Celtic circle pattern to structure your interceding:

    • Imagine a circle around your family and pray for one thing your family needs.

    • Do the same for your local community

    • Do the same for the country

    • And then do the same for the world.

  • In a news-saturated society, it can be helpful to choose a small number of news stories to pray about each day. If you’re having lunch with others, share which story you’ve each chosen and then have a few minutes of silence or spoken prayer to bring it to God.

  • You could use a map or atlas to help you pray for towns/cities/countries which are on your heart.

  • There’s a wealth of good material out there for helping us pray for the Coronavirus outbreak. Here are some written prayers you might find useful:

    • The Church of England's COVID-19 prayer resources:

www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/coronavirus-covid-19-liturgy-and-

prayer-resources

  • Prayers from the Baptist Union of Great Britain:

www.baptist.org.uk/Articles/568723/Coronavirus_Call_to.aspx

  • Prayers from CAFOD:

cafod.org.uk/Pray/Prayer-resources/Coronavirus-prayers

  • Prayers from World Vision:

www.worldvision.org/disaster-relief-news-stories/prayers-people-affected-new-coronavirus

  • 24-7 Prayer's COVID-19 resources, including the opportunity to sign up and be part of the global 'Virtual Prayer Room' ... people from around the world gathering online to pray about the crisis:

www.24-7prayer.com/coronavirusprayer

  • 24-7 Prayer's Scripture-based responsive prayer for the COVID-19 crisis:

www.24-7prayer.com/downloads/coronavirus_prayer_print_version.pdf

Connect

As we physically distance/isolate ourselves, here are some ways to strengthen our connections to one another in prayer.

  • Phone or message 4 or 5 people you haven’t seen that day and let them know you’re praying for them.

  • In your contact with people, ask them to tell you what they’re thankful for. Celebrating and giving thanks with one another is a vital part of prayer in community.

  • Ask the people you’ve contacted to tell you what they’d most like you to pray for. That way you’re praying with them as well as for them.

  • If you have a church address list, you could work through that, contacting a few people each day.

  • Could you make contact with people in your street to see if they have any needs? The Neighbourhood Prayer Network have some ideas and resources for this:

www.neighbourhoodprayer.net/internal/coronavirus.php

  • If you’re praying together at the dinner table, you could fill a container with the names of as many people as you can think of: family, friends, church community, neighbours etc. You could each draw a name at dinner-time and all pray together for the people who’ve been picked out.

If you enjoy writing or crafting, you could then make a card for each person, telling them you’ve prayed for them. You could either post it or take a picture of it and message it to them.

Hope

Night-time can be a battle-ground of worry and fear at a time like this, but a nightly rhythm of prayer and reflection can help us tune our hearts, minds and souls to peace.

  • Use the Ignatian practice of Examen to look back over your day and look forward to tomorrow. Here’s a simple explanation:

www.loyolapress.com/our-catholic-faith/ignatian-spirituality/examen-and-ignatian-prayer/how-can-i-pray-try-the-daily-examen

  • Hope is born in gratitude, so why not keep a journal, listing all the good things you’ve experienced that day.

  • Think back on the good news stories others have told you, and give thanks.

  • Hope is also formed in faith, so you could call to mind some Scripture promises as you think about tomorrow.

  • The Church of England’s ‘Time to Pray’ app is now totally free and has night-time prayers:

www.chpublishing.co.uk/apps/time-to-pray

  • If you enjoy a moment of musical worship to close your day, the Royal School of Church Music is recording a hymn for the day which you can find here:

www.rscm.org.uk/our-resources/hftd/

General Resources

Here are some websites with ideas, written prayers and liturgies which may be of use in planning online worship.

NB. If you wish to provide online worship opportunities, please remember that you may only broadcast from your own home, and may not have anyone present who does not live in your household.

  •  Thy Kingdom Come have put together 10 ideas for continuing to worship while not gathering:

www.thykingdomcome.global/stories/10-ideas-help-your-church-continue-worship-while-not-gathered

  • The Northumbria Community - liturgies for morning, midday and night prayer:

www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/how-to-use-daily-office/

  • A collection of links to daily prayer liturgies, prayer rhythms, family prayer resources and even some YouTube hymns.

oikodomeo.home.blog/2020/03/17/resources-for-prayer-when-public-worship-is-not-possible/

  • Resources to help children and adults pray together:

    • On our own Diocesan Prayer Network page there is a resource with some creative activities to help families pray together about the COVID-19 outbreak:

www.canterburydiocese.org/our-life/prayer/

  • Prayer ideas/activities from Prayer Spaces in Schools, to do at home:

www.prayerspacesinschools.com/resources/177?fbclid=IwAR3mpdzZuOdKy1TJ3zGVSzM6nRCvS_YZufWZmsk45ST3LKf9IyOTlSAWFJo

  • Some helpful tips on getting an online service up and running:

    • A comprehensive guide to creating online services on a number of different platforms:

www.churchofengland.org/more/church-resources/digital-labs/labs-learning-blog/beginners-guide-going-live-your-service-or

  • Information about copyright when streaming recorded music:

www.rscm.org.uk/live-streaming-of-church-services/