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Pray With Us

At St Mary Magdalen we have a series of different services on Sunday evenings where we pray quietly together, often in silence. Please see our services page for more details and join us in prayer on a Sunday evening.

In addition, we have small groups which meet monthly throughout the year for prayer and reflection. These are informal occasions, usually held at the house of one of the Parishioners. Look out for more details on the notices sheet that you can pick up at any of our services.

In the history of the Christian church, prayer has taken many forms involving words, music, art, movement and silence. Prayer always means dedicating your time and attention to God, but it does not always have to involve speaking words. Instead, prayer is the daily work of developing a deepening, loving relationship with the living God. You are made in the image of God, God loves you and He is interested in every aspect your life “So have no fear …; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid” (Matthew 10.26,30-31). 

Some thoughts on prayer

From Lord Rowan Williams

“It’s about the habits you try to form: making time every day to be quiet with God. That’s what I am answerable to. It’s very important to settle yourself and to remind myself that his is time God gives me, not just time I give to God. For me [prayer] is a matter of trying to a clear a space in my head.”

He talked about this daily prayer in the most careful, practical way, almost as if it was therapy: “Breathe regularly, sit upright, breathe, and say some simple words. I will often say ‘Lord have mercy’ slowly, at intervals, and just let it settle into my stomach. It doesn’t always seem to work. Sometime I can be there for half an hour and the thoughts just go galloping round like horses in the Grand National. Then I have to remind myself that this is time God gives to me, and not just time I give to God.” Then, still in the same matter of fact way, he said: “You are trying to open the cellar door and be aware of the darkness underneath the water.”

Prayer with words

Sometimes the most difficult part of praying with words is to find a way to express your desires, fears, doubts and pain to God. This can especially true after a bereavement or a traumatic experience, or when God seems distant. At these times, it helps to rely on the prayers of others.


Throughout Christian history, the Church has collected prayers (often adapted from passages of the Bible) that people have found helpful. These have been passed down through the generations and form the basis of our Church services today. The best known of these is the Lord’s Prayer, that Jesus taught his disciples (Matthew 6.9–13):

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are Yours
now and for ever.
Amen.

The Jesus prayer

The Jesus Prayer is a much shorter prayer which likely originates from the early monks and nuns who went out alone into the Egyptian desert to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5.17). These Desert Mothers and Fathers attracted so many visitors they were said to have turned the desert into a city, and their lives inspired the traditions of monks and nuns that we have today. Unlike the Lord’s Prayer, the Jesus Prayer is short, simple and intended to be repeated continually:

 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.

The purpose of repeating the prayer is that it might enter into the heart, so that the person praying finds themselves saying the words spontaneously, and without conscious effort. To start out using this prayer, some people recite the words for a certain period of time (perhaps a few minutes), whereas others count the number of times they repeat the words (for example, using a prayer rope or prayer beads).

Prayer with the Bible

To deepen your own prayer life spending time with the biblical texts can be life changing. This helps us to understand the relationship between God and Her people over time, and teaches us how Jews and Christians have prayed in the past, particularly in the Book of Psalms (iOS / Apple or Android 4.0+). To help us learn more from the Bible, our Sunday morning services use readings of scripture from the Revised Common Lectionary, which takes us through the whole Bible once every three years. Each year in the cycle has one Gospel as its focus (A: Matthew, B: Mark and C: Luke), with  the Gospel of John being used for special festivals such as Easter. If you want to read ahead, a list of the upcoming Sunday readings can be found at the back of Church or on the Church of England Sunday Worship app (available for iOS / Apple or Android 4.0+).

If you are just starting out with the Bible, or picking it up again after a break, you might want to start with the Gospel of Mark, and if finding time to read daily is difficult, why not try listening to the Bible instead? Choose a good translation grounded in academic study, like the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), or the King James Version if you prefer the poetic nature of the language, or one in modern English, such as The Message or the Contemporary English Version; then the language won’t be a barrier. As with prayer, consistency is good, but don’t feel bad about it if you miss a few days — time with God is never a punishment!

Prayer in Church

For more extended prayers and Bible readings, the Church of England has both morning and evening services that are intended to be said daily. These change slightly each day, and you can find the services for today on the Daily Prayer webpage, or as an app for iOS / Apple or Android 4.0+ phones.

 

If you are using the Daily Prayer services at home, it is a good idea to start with the “contemporary language” versions of the services, at least to start with, as the language will be more familiar to you. The text in red is there to tell you what comes next in the service and is not intended to be read out, but you will say the text in black out loud. If you are praying with others, all of you will say the text in bold and one of you will say the non-bold text — it is a good idea to take turns at this. Unless you are a priest, you should leave out any parts of the service that say “A priest says”, or similar (if you are not a priest, you can still say any parts of the service that a “minister” says — we are all ministers in the Church!).

The services have a space for prayers or “intercessions” where we pray for the well-being of other people, and this is time for you to add your own words to the service. These don’t have to be long, but many people find it helpful to pray about anything important happening that day, friends and family, and the life of the Church and the wider world.

Image by Aaron Burden

Still have questions? Get in touch.

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