19 March 2014

First Lenten address on prayer

During Lent, it is common to have a ‘bible study’ - regular meetings of a group of people to discuss and reflect on specially chosen bible passages.

St Mary Magdalene’s is taking a different approach this year. Sister Juliana SI and Father Philip Carter will use the time in our Sunday services usually occupied by the sermon to teach us about prayer.

Sister Juliana began the series with a two-fold address on prayerful reflection and preparing for daily prayer. These are her thoughts:

Reflections on a Rubber Band

Rubber bands are thin and seemingly weak things. And yet they can have great strength. When I think of a rubber band and what it might represent to me, I think firstly that a rubber band is like love. Because the thing about rubber bands is that they can be stretched…in fact they are made to be stretched. And I think that love can be stretched too. If the rubber band is in good nick, then although the band may stretched a long way, yet it has this property of being able to be returned to its original size. It has an elasticity that allows this to happen. And, that is how it happens between people. At times our relationships become strained and the love between us seem to stretched, even to breaking point. But if the rubber band is okay, then when you release the tension, and cease stretching it, then it will return back to normal. And, I think about my relationship with those I love, and how they either are or have been stretched. And I long for them to be returned to their original shape.

Sometimes when a rubber band is stretched, and then the tension is released, and you let it go, and it returns to its original size, it can hurt you. You can get stung by the sudden return. It can cause pain. And the same is true when we strain the love between one another. As the relationship is restored there can be pain. It doesn't always come back into shape without pain. And I think about my relationship with significant people and how this is happening in my life.

And this rubber band can represent to me, not only the love between me and another person, but also between me and God. And yet this rubber band may look thin and weak, but it is very elastic and it does have the ability to come back with great force, and indeed pain, to its original state.

But if the rubber band is frail, or weak, or in not too good a nick, if I stretch the band too far, it can break…then I will have caused it to break and it can not be restored to its former state. This seems to happen in some people's lives. I think and pray about those who are frail or old or stretched beyond what they can take, and pray for them in their brokenness. When a rubber band breaks like this, there is always pain and it zings back and stings.

And, when I look at a this rubber band, I think of how rubber bands are really made to hold things together. We put a rubber band around a group of things to hold them together. And again I see that in this way the rubber band is like love. It is love which binds us together. I think about those who are so important to me, who are tied up very closely to me by love. And when you put a rubber band around a group of things, it is never a loose holding together. It is always very close.

This is not a type of prayer I use all the time…but rather when I seeking to discern what I ought to do, or when I am not at ease.

Preparing for Daily Prayer

1. Stating intention
You need cooperation with your household. No interruptions. Maybe even as a couple you may choose a common time.
2. Time
(a) A constant time. (b)A time when you are at your best: not asleep, not overstimulated.
3. Place
It is helpful to have a place which you consider your place for prayer. Maybe has natural beauty, comfort, intimacy, privacy, sacred objects, two chairs. May be light or dark. You may use a candle to give you a focus, or a picture or a crucifix or your open window. It is probably easier if the place is quiet, away from the traffic noise or the noise of the radio or television. But not essential.
4. Length of time
You need to spend time if you are going to develop a relationship. If you do nothing between sessions, you can’t expect too much to happen. It take times and practice. If you are able, then 15 to 20 minutes a day will bear fruit. However, a minimum requirement would be to try 20 minutes three or four time a week.
5. Posture
For the most part, it is usual to sit for the type of prayer we are going to explore, but if you want to be flat on your face, or assume the lotus position (if you can), then by all means do so. Whatever else you do, you need to choose a posture in which you can be still and comfortable, without going to sleep.

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