A new start in prayer
All Saints' Vicarage, January 2002
Like a circle in a spiral
The rhythms and patterns of our natural environment and of our human constructs of time would indicate that it’s good for all of us to have an occasional chance to start again. A new day, a new week and the cycle of changing seasons present us with regular opportunities to make a fresh beginning, for example. For me, a sense of excited anticipation in the Autumn that was instilled into me throughout my years of school and university has never completely faded. When the sun shines through russet leaves, and the nip in the morning air turns my breath cloudy, a welling sense that something new is about to happen still stirs inside me. New starts are part of being human.
There are bound to be times when we need or desire a break from the ‘old’ and an embrace from the ‘new’ and, of course, offering the good news of a new life from God is precisely the church’s line of business.
For St Paul, one of the key implications of Jesus’ death was that we are able to receive forgiveness from God and have the slate wiped clean. And way before that, a psalmist articulated a number of ‘new start’ images:
What about a new year, then? It is clearly a significant passing of time, which we express in celebration. We all know about resolutions, too. Mainly those personal ones about turning over a new leaf in some respect, or losing weight, or giving up smoking/ drinking/ that other habit that we want to leave behind. But we are so often disillusioned when our hopes are dashed within the first few days, and we turn out to be just the same.
Isn’t this just how we feel about the world? Think back to those commendable ideals that were expressed in the Millennium prayer only two years ago… respect for the earth, peace for its people, love in our lives, and so on.
We hoped beyond hope that being catapulted into a new millennium would jolt every human being into a new way of life. We prayed for an end to war, poverty, famine and abuse. But we are faced with the reality: the world (and the people in it) have not changed.
We wait for the fulfilment of God’s kingdom and we pray. It is not that we are reduced to prayer because that is our only recourse. The fact is that prayer is an integral part of the Christian life, not an optional extra. We should be praying for the world around us and for its needs. Elsewhere in this magazine you will find an article about the latest addition to the Common Worship provision. It’s a book full of resources for daily prayer, and its intention is to help us all to pray - whether we feel we are hopeless at it or already have a sturdy diet and a regular routine. Maybe this book would help you, too - it is certainly worth having a look.
The start of a new year is one of those moments when most of us take stock, even a little. How about checking out your prayer-life while you’re at it, and asking with the disciples in Luke 11: ‘Lord, teach us to pray’.
I wish you all a very happy new year!