Do you remember as a child, kneeling down by your bed, hands clasped, to say your prayers? I can just about remember that far back but I do have fond memories of encouraging my own children to do the same, gently introducing the ideal of daily prayers to them by snuggling them into me and suggesting that we ‘chat to God’ about our day.
Do people still do that with their children now?
I was struck by a podcast I was listening to where the actor James Norton spoke about his teenage years at boarding school. Describing himself as spiritual rather than religious (despite playing the vicar in Granchester!), he spoke of daily prayers with the priests who ran his school and how they helped shape his day. He said that giving thanks for the good things that had happened allowed him to focus positively on the day ahead, whilst sharing problems he was experiencing helped him cope better. If things seemed especially bad there was always a senior brother who would happily pray with him, bringing a calmness and order to whatever teenage angst was bothering him.
Aside from public prayers as part of our pattern of worship, prayer tends to be a very personal act and I’m not sure that it’s always something people feel happy about sharing – it’s not generally something that comes up in conversation very often (unless, of course you’re a member of the clergy when it’s obviously part of the job description!). And yet it is incredibly important. Not only as the backbone of our Christian lives when we use that direct line to God to express concern, ask for help and, of course, to give thanks, but also as a way of processing our day and making sense of life.
It is difficult, I find, not to be overwhelmed by all the devastating disasters and awful events across the globe and feel that we should be putting them to the forefront of our prayer life. But there should be a time and place in our prayers to lift up our hearts and give thanks for the small things that have brought a smile to our face, too.
Just think of a 12 year old James Norton thanking God for a good run at cricket, or having his favourite pudding for tea … what would you give thanks for? For me, as I write this, I’m thankful for a particularly tasty salmon pate that I’ve just had for lunch and for being disturbed by my three-year-old granddaughter impatiently shouting “Granneeeee!” from the next room. Life is good!
Prospect and website editor