Outdoor prayer is a lockdown habit I'm keeping
- Credit: Ella Wilkinson
I was not surprised to read that Hunstanton, Great Yarmouth and Felixstowe were all pretty busy over the bank holiday weekend.
The great outdoors, countryside and sea, so stunning at this time of year has a certain draw and appeal.
However, instead of lounging on a towel I indulged my interest in country churches this weekend visiting All Saints Yoxford (some decent hatchments and interesting memorials to the Blois family) as well as St James’ Dunwich (gothic revival).
From a priest you might expect no less, though if I’m honest the appeal of the country church is often as much architectural and historical as it is about finding a moment of peace – though perhaps it’s all the same thing.
Last year, when the churches were closed, I found myself drawn to and able to worship and pray outside of these buildings, to thank God in the open air.
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This year, I have kept this lockdown habit and found myself once again on Friston village green saying Morning Prayer – and, though I can’t quite explain it, prayer outside on a glorious summer morning somehow heightens all we have to be grateful for.
At a barbecue – my re-introduction to social life continues – on Sunday a fellow guest took me to one side and asked me why I became a priest.
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After I’d finished telling him the story he asked me about the Lord’s Prayer – he knew it by rote from his school days but it had never been explained to him.
I did my best, over a juicy steak, salads, and glass of wine, to share some of my thoughts on the subject.
Our father who art in heaven – the opening words – describe the sort of relationship we are to have with God, one of a child and his parent.
Hallowed be thy name – reminds us of the holiness and sacred nature of God. Hallowed means holy.
Thy kingdom come – is a call not only to mission and building up the kingdom of god here on earth but also an eschatological statement - a reminder the kingdom of God is now as well as something that is yet to come.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven - is a reminder for us to put self aside and submit to God’s will in our lives, and to submit to his authority.
Give us this day our daily bread – is an exhortation to rely on God to provide for our needs, and in some ways another reminder to put the power of God first rather than our own individual agency.
And forgive us our trespasses – this statement is a reminder to us to say sorry for our failings and those moments we forget to honour God.
As we forgive those that trespass against us – calls us to love one another selfless and without pride and ego – a very difficult task for which we need God’s grace.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil can also be translated as deliver us from this time of trial.
I think the interpretation of this is as a reminder that God is with us when the tough times come, or when we are in trouble or when life seems uncertain. We are loved by God even when we feel abandoned and lost.
The final phrase – for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever, though points us towards the great mystery of God also points us in the direction that God is supreme in not only the world around us but also in our lives and in our hearts.
As is often the case for someone who professes no real interest, my fellow guest went on to talk rather a lot about his own relationship with God.
Today, as the weather improves all our moods and outlook, I couldn’t help thinking, as I said these words on the green this morning, how the holiness of life is all around us all the time, if only we take the trouble to stop and see it.