What We Do
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On 4 June, the evening of Pentecost, it was a joy to see Exeter Cathedral filled with people who had come from every corner of Devon to close the ten-day global wave of prayer for the Church’s mission, ‘Thy Kingdom Come.’ Many of those present have remarked to me how powerful they found the experience of local churches from across the county gathering in the mother church of the diocese to pray together, with a deep sense of unity and shared purpose in doing so. That was how it felt to me too.
‘Growing in Prayer’ is one of our three diocesan priorities, and rightly the first on the list because it is the one on which the others depend. The praying in which we seek to grow is sometimes private and personal, sometimes shared with others. Theologically, it is probably true to say that individual prayer is secondary to and dependent upon the ongoing corporate prayer of the Christian community. But whether it is the prayer of the whole church or the personal prayer of you and me, to pray is simply to be in a living relationship with God our creator—a relationship broken by our faithlessness, restored by God’s love in Christ, and expressed through promise and grace on God’s side, trust and obedience on ours.
Growth in prayer ultimately means growth in the quality of our relationship with God. God is there whether we are thinking about him or not, whether we are in a place set apart as holy or out in the mundane spaces and activities of daily life. We are always in relation to him, never away from his presence, and ‘underneath are the everlasting arms.’ When we pray, whether in words or silence, activity or stillness, we allow ourselves to be fully present in the relationship with God, the channels of communication open, available to him as he is to us across the infinite qualitative difference between God and ourselves which is bridged only by his grace, honest with him in our feelings and thoughts, our concerns and hopes, ready to receive both strength and challenge from his gracious word to us.
St Paul wrote that to have been baptized is to be ‘alive to God’ in Jesus Christ our Lord. When we are fully present to God, our prayer bears fruit in praise of him and lives more closely aligned to his will—signs of the Kingdom for which Jesus taught us to pray. As we seek to grow in prayer, so let us pray earnestly for this immeasurable gift.
The Ven Douglas Dettmer
Archdeacon of Totnes