PRAYERS may be formal or informal, from a set liturgy or extempore. They may be in the form of silence, adoration, confession, thanksgivings, and often they are in the form of requests made to God on behalf of ourselves and others.
What Happens When We Pray? Does it make any difference? (Kevin Mayhew £11.99 (£10.80); 978-1-84867-826-2) by John Saxbee deals mostly with intercessory prayer, and is mainly for people who do pray. Prayer is essential for a two-way relationship between God and us. Saxbee explores the relationship between God’s sovereignty, control, and our God-given freedom. God chooses, in his love, to honour our freedom by entrusting to us the working out of his will and purpose in the world. If we pray for someone and can help to bring this to happen then we must then seek to do it.
Prayer is an expression of our relationship to God, our neighbour, and the world around us, and an expression of our interdependence. So prayer should be an expression and deepening of our relationships rather than only a seeking for results. In such prayer, we discover our mutual interdependence, and therefore how good such prayer is in opening our awareness of all.
Saxbee faces full on the philosophical and theological difficulties posed by the practice of prayer. He is not always an easy read, but always rewarding. Above everything, he acknowledges the need for all to pray. He encourages us to think about what we are doing when we pray, and offers us stimulation to pray with ever more conviction, love, and commitment to action. Prayer always makes a difference.
In my reading I kept thinking of these words from Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”:
He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.
He prayeth best, who lovest best
All things both great and small.
Canon Adam is a former Vicar of Holy Island.