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LEARNING HOW TO PRAY- A thought from Revd. Ginni.


I was with a group of primary school children recently and I was asked to say a prayer before the children went off to their activities.  In true ‘vicar-fashion’ I began by saying “Let us pray” and instantly twenty heads bowed, hands were put together with index fingers under chins and eyes were closed ...  all except one little boy at the back who began looking all around him …. upwards, downwards and side to side.

As I continued with the prayer I could see the teacher nearest to him quietly motioning him to assume the ‘praying position’ whilst the little boy looked a little “discombobulated”.  Later on, the teacher relayed the conversation she had had with him at that point.  Apparently, on being pulled up for his lack of conformation with the rest of his peers, he whispered to the teacher “but Miss, if I close my eyes then I won’t be able to see God when he comes to listen to the prayer”!!

It struck me then that this little boy probably had a better idea of what it meant to pray than most of the rest of us.  After all, he had his eyes open because he really did expect God to turn up to listen.  I wonder sometimes whether that is our expectation of God, that He does actually listen to our individual pleas, or whether we just hope our words are heard but daren’t think about it too deeply in case we are seen as lacking faith?

I was pondering this whilst I was on holiday and questioning my own expectations of prayer and the reasoning behind the mechanics of the way I pray.  I remember when I was a small child being told to close my eyes and bow my head during the school prayer.  I don’t think I had any expectations then although I do remember trying to squint my eyes a little bit to see what everyone else was doing without any of the teachers spotting my non-compliance!  I wasn’t brought up in a church-going family but I remember that in my troubled teenage years, I would bunk off school and wile away the time in the countryside addressing my thoughts to ‘someone out there’.  I wonder now if the feeling I had that somehow my thoughts were heard was God desperately trying to get me to realise that He was indeed there!

I always felt a draw to my local church, aside from the fact that it was a good place to hide when I was truanting and the weather was too cold to wander the countryside, because it seemed to ooze peace and a sense of belonging I didn’t feel anywhere else.  But I also remember that when I eventually started attending a church in my late twenties I

was more concerned with doing things the ‘right’ way and not looking foolish than I was with questioning why I was there in the first place.

Life has obviously moved on considerably for me since those days but I am thankful to that little boy at the school for reminding me how easy it is to allow our misconceptions or preconceptions of God to get in the way of our relationship with Him and how those of us who ‘do church’ can be barriers

to those who are just coming to an awareness of the possibility of God.

I’m interested in your thoughts on this.  Whether you are a life-long Christian or someone who isn’t sure whether God is actually there or not,

or anyone in between.  How do you pray or, how would you pray if you did?  Do you think there is a right way to pray?  Do you expect God to be listening or daren’t you ask that question?  What helps you to pray and what stops you from praying?  What preconceptions or misconceptions about God are you aware that you have or have had?

Please send me an email (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or a letter to The Vicarage, Stevenage Road, St. Ippolyts, SG4 7PE.  Feel free to remain anonymous if you prefer!  Your answers will help me put together an informal course I hope to run in the autumn called Exploring Prayer and, with any luck, we can all help each other to build on our relationship with God.

   With love - Ginni

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A NEW LOOK? - A thought from Revd Ginni.

I’ve decided that I’m a ‘late bloomer’!!  Most people begin new healthy eating regimes or decide to do something about their fitness in the New Year but not takes a bit of sun and a few turns at puffing up and down The Vicarage garden with the lawnmower to persuade me that I really have to get to grips with myself! 

Part of my Lenten reflection was to take a good look at myself and my habits and see if the life I was living was in line with the one I felt that God wanted me to live and I came to the conclusion that God probably hadn’t intended for me to give myself stomach problems by eating the wrong food nor to waddle around in a manner more suited to someone 40 years older than I am.  This last point was brought home to me quite forcibly when I did indeed meet a lady 40 years older than me who was as nimble as a mountain goat and left me puffing in her wake!!

We all pick up bad habits during the course of our lives and a lot of the time, they don’t actually impact all that greatly on our day to day living, but it’s still a good discipline to occasionally take a step back and notice whether that is indeed the case or whether we are just kidding ourselves about the impact of our habits and using any old excuse to justify the lack of care and respect we have for ourselves.  We are, after all, built in the image of God, and who we are and what we do reflects who God is into the world around us.

I have definitely fallen short and have run out of excuses as to why I don’t take action.  So why am I telling you this?  Well, one of the crucial aspects of living a Christian life is accountability.  We can kid ourselves endlessly about the things we do well and the things we do badly, both physically and spiritually but, in reality, what we all need in order to grow and mature is someone to walk the journey of life with us.  Someone who will encourage us to reach our full potential, urging us on when the going gets tough and gently reminding us of our goals whilst also loving us when we falter or fall. 

As Christians, that is what we are supposed to do for one another.  If we hide our struggles, be they physical, emotional or spiritual, then we are effectively closing the door to a wealth of non-judgemental love, encouragement and support that is freely offered by our brothers and sisters in Christ.

So, my struggle with my physical well-being is holding me back from many things I could potentially be doing and now that the whole world (well, anyone who reads this magazine!) knows about it, I have no hiding place, I need to do something about it......and you lot can hold me accountable!!!

I’ve already begun to take action.  My health-freak of a daughter has taken charge of the cooking, forcing mountains of vegetables and fruit into my protesting mouth and curdling milk with her glare when I go within 40 paces of the biscuit tin!  My holiday in Devon last week involved tramping across Exmoor with the dogs, clambering over huge rocks and boulders, staggering down cliffs to the sea and crawling back up without complaint (ok, the only reason there was no complaint was that I had no breath left to utter a single sound!!).  I may have woken up this morning feeling like my legs and hips belong to someone else but it is a start and now that I am accountable to you lot, there’s hope that a new and improved model of your Vicar may just emerge!!

With love - Ginni

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