By Paul Dumbrille.
Christians are called to do their best to bring God into their daily lives. Prayer, in its many forms, is the way we establish and maintain a connection with God. If we are to be the best we can be, and follow Jesus, we need to make prayer a priority in our lives. Personal prayer is central, but prayer in our family, church congregation, Diocese and community is also important. This is not done without making prayer a priority in all of these settings.
Making Personal Prayer a Priority
Letting others pray for us, and not praying ourselves is not an option. Prayer does not just happen at a personal level. We need to take responsibility for our relationship with God. There are many ways of making prayer a priority in our personal lives. Some suggestions might be to: set aside a regular time for personal prayer; join a prayer group or meditation group; use a daily devotional publication for reflection and prayer; reach out beyond the normal bounds of family and friends for occasions on which to join others in prayer; and volunteer to lead the Prayers of the People in worship services.
Making Family Prayer a Priority
If prayer is a priority it should be easy to pray within our families, and yet my experience is that this is not as easy as it sounds. Some suggestions for making prayer a priority within the family and to deliberately create opportunities for the family to pray together might be to: establish a regular pattern of prayer at times such as meals, when the family is together; bring your family to church with you. If you are a grandparent, be a model for prayer even if the parents don’t do so by: saying Grace before a family meal; bringing your grandchildren to church; and if the opportunity arises, tell children the value of prayer in your life.
Making Prayer a Priority in Your Congregation
In my experience the most common shortcoming in many congregations and parishes is neglecting to put prayer at the head of the agenda of parish activities and education, and encouraging prayer in all settings. Lay people often rely on the clergy for leadership in encouraging and leading prayer. Why should this be so? Asking and answering the following questions might be helpful in making prayer a priority in a parish. Do all parish meetings and activities include elements of prayer? Is there a person on Parish Council, other than the clergy, whose primary responsibility is to provide education and leadership in making prayer a part of all parish activities. Does the parish Christian Education program include education about, and encouragement of, prayer? Does the parish have a Prayer Group which meets regularly to pray? Is there a Prayer Chain of people responding in prayer for specific situations? Are several members of the congregation encouraged to lead the Prayers of the People (Intercessions) at worship services?
Making Prayer a Priority in Your Diocese
Diocesan leadership is important in providing education and encouragement about the many methods of prayer, and providing financial support and educational resources to encourage prayer in parishes and individuals. Identifying a person in the Diocesan structure whose primary responsibility is to enable, encourage, educate in matters of prayer would seem to me to be essential if prayer is a priority. One would hope that there would be Diocesan leadership and financial support for creating and organizing regular prayer events of different kinds within the Diocese as well as advertising and promoting prayer initiatives that come from the National church, such as the recent “Thy Kingdom Come” initiative of the archbishop of Canterbury. Making prayer a priority at Diocesan Synods and other important Diocesan events should be encouraged.
Making Prayer a Priority in Your Community
Given the diversity in our communities, this is somewhat more difficult than within our own faith group(s). However reaching out to, and joining with other Christian denominations and other faith groups to pray for global peace, reconciliation and the cessation of war and conflict are good ways to make prayer a priority beyond our own church. Participating in Outreach activities to help the poor and lonely, are in themselves, acts of prayer.
If you have ideas and suggestions for making prayer a priority in all aspects of life, I would be interested in hearing them. I can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.