Does it matter how we pray?

Do we kneel, our head bowed, our hands together, our eyes closed? Or do we stand, wave our arms about and shout in an egotistical display for all the world to see? Or do we as in the Russian Orthodox, stand in silent prayer? Or do we as a devout Muslim, five times a day, lay prostrate on the ground facing Mecca?

To pray is to communicate with an Infinite Being. To communicate implies a two-way dialogue.

Too often we make demands, when these are not met, we go off in a huff, get in a strop.

We would do well to heed the advice of St Benedict: Listen, listen to your Master. The Master in this case was the Abbot.

We need to learn to listen, to be patient.

At Alton Abbey, visitors will go away with three or more books on how to pray. They would be best served in devoting their time in prayer, not reading the books.

The Jesus Prayer can be used as as mantra, an aid to meditation, but there is a danger if we do this without a spiritual guide.

There are too many churches where one is greeted on arrival as though a long lost friend, but it is a false sense of friendship, there is no depth, no sense of community.

Alton Abbey has a congregation of about ninety people. They do not all turn up at once which is fortunate as the church is only small. They turn up because they are made welcome, they find they are members of a community.

The follow up discussion descended into a discussion on the format of church services.

At a St Joseph’s Day Party in Istanbul, Paulo Coelho invited everyone to join him in prayer. It was not an obligation, but if you did participate he asked that it came from your soul. He asked everyone to join hands. It was a very moving experience.

I spent three weeks in the spring, of which nearly every day I visited an old Spanish colonial church. At the same time I would sit in the plaza reading By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept. I tried a technique described in the book. To sit very quietly and open ones mind. I was amazed at what happened. I discussed this with Father Dom Giles Hill. He said yes, now try it with a group of people.

A special thanks to Dom Giles Hill, former Abbot of Alton, for the talk he gave at St Nicolas, Guildford, 8pm Wednesday 25 May 2011.

St Nicolas Church by the River Wey, is one of the oldest churches in Guildford

Alton Abbey is an Anglican Benedictine Monastery in the beautiful Hampshire village of Beech, just outside Alton.

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