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Kentigern John SSF

Kentigern John SSF, now living in Leeds after a number of years in Scotland and some time in New Zealand, shares what he’s learnt about prayer.

The best advice I’ve been given about prayer is to pray as you can not as you can’t. Which I’ve taken to mean that I need to find ways, methods, attitudes of prayer that at some level go with the flow of the type of person that I am.

The Religious life tends to attract introverts who like order and space. So the daily cycle of offices and quiet meditation is set up by them, quite unwittingly, because it suits them. And this sort of prayer has been exalted above all other and might, by some, be seen to be the only sort of ‘real’ prayer, with all others coming in as the nursery slopes before their grande piste.

Prayer is spending time with God, attending to that relationship. So if God and I are the teenagers in love needing lots of words, symbols, emotive expressions and be all over each other to convey that love or if we’re the middle-aged lovers, busy, pre-occupied and hoping that the other remembers the love as much in the breech as the observance, or if at times we’re the old married couple, able to enjoy each other’s company, knowing the other’s needs, wants and love without a word but through the merest exchange of loving glances, then for all these experiences of relationship I will need different sorts of prayer. And words like perseverance, sticking-with-it and aridity are also part of the lexicon of my prayer.

It is also worth noting that in the thinking about prayer, in the experimenting, in the preparation and in the novelty and familiarity, all of this is itself a prayer for this is part of expressing my longing for my love and thinking about them and making things ready for them – this is a demonstration of the relationship as much as anything else is.

So I find God in going for a walk, in the faces of others, in a story from the news, in preparing a meal, cleaning a toilet, in laughter with friends, in being with someone attentively, in reading a novel, doing some hand craft and sitting quietly by myself meditating. The trick is to be attentive to what the relationship needs at that time and to pray as I can and not as I can’t.