RESEARCH commissioned by SPCK from YouGov suggests that many people, whether churchgoers or not, pray regularly. From a representative sample of more than 2000 British adults, 42 per cent of those questioned said that they prayed.
Of course, prayer, reaching out beyond ourselves, is something that many people do without even realising it: praying for our team to win, begging for the health of a loved one. The comforts and benefits of prayer appeal to people who might never have thought of entering a church.
That is why, in the coming weeks, thousands of prayer posters will be placed on public transport in London and Newcastle, with the support of the two dioceses, as part of a wider initiative, Prayers on the Move. The hope is that reading a simple prayer in the anonymity of the Tube or the bus will give people an opportunity to listen to the Spirit’s inner voice.
The posters will also provide the information to take things further if people wish: they can download an app, send a text to receive a booklet, or follow a Twitter feed. It may prompt them to speak with a Christian whom they already know.
AS WE enter Lent, we will, as usual, encourage each other to do more of this or less of that, to read the Bible more, or join a study or prayer group. These are good disciplines to help us grow as we go on our journey to the new life of Easter. Yet this is also a time to ponder what we might do to assist others in their spiritual growth.
Jesus met ordinary people where they were, and provoked them to think about things eternal. Sometimes, in the past, the Church has expected people to come to us; but now we must go to them.
Reaching out to people where they are is vital, and an important part of the approach we are taking in London through our Capital Vision 2020. In particular, we have already commissioned 11,000 Ambassadors for Christ to be available to give a reason for the faith that is in us, for the sake of the majority of Londoners, who would not describe themselves as Christians.
Every diocese has similar aspirations, and I am grateful for the Prayers on the Move initiative, which increases the rumour of God in a non-oppressive way.
I am also grateful that it has not fallen victim to the ban imposed before Christmas by cinema chains, as they strove to preserve their clientele from exposure to the Lord’s Prayer (News, 27 November). Thank goodness that Transport for London is more enlightened.
We can all support the Prayers on the Move campaign on social media, and this will give it an even greater impact, well beyond public transport in Newcastle and London. I was humbled to find that one of the curates in the diocese of London has more than 159,000 followers on Twitter.
Let your friends know that you are following #prayersonthemove on Twitter, or “like” the Prayers On The Move Facebook page. There are plenty of other ideas, information, and ways to give support, financially or otherwise, at www.prayersonthemove.com.
AS WE remember our Lord’s 40 days of prayer and fasting at the start of his ministry, and as we encourage others to start out along the journey of prayer, I hope that this Lent may also be for us a time of renewal in prayer.
Whatever our church tradition, we know that authentic prayer — listening deeply and responding obediently — takes time. Our busy lives will eat up all available hours, and it is a good discipline to remind each other of the importance of prayer by having deliberate seasons of waiting on God, and perhaps by learning by heart some of the great prayers of the saints.
Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits thou hast given me, for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me. O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly, day by day. Amen.
St Richard of Chichester
The Rt Revd Richard Chartres is the Bishop of London.
Prayers on the Move consists of 3000 adverts posted on the London Underground, and nearly 500 on buses in Tyne and Wear, during February. Bus adverts in Birmingham will follow later in the year.
Booklets and other merchandise are available at: www.prayersonthemove.com.