How to pray without ceasing...or maybe for just an hour!
Jess from Walthamstow reflects on taking part in the prayer chain for climate justice.
It was in a fit of enthusiasm that I signed up for an hour of prayer as part of Christian Aid’s prayer chain for climate justice. ‘Pray without ceasing’ is running through 2021 up until the critical UN climate talks in November. Yes, I thought! I want join my prayers and actions with thousands of others around the world as we tackle this climate crisis together.
I don’t know if you’ve ever prayed for an hour, but when I woke up on Sunday morning with the task looming before me, all I could think was ‘it’s a really long time’! I started feeling a bit prayer-anxious, I could feel the sweat forming on my brow as I watched my time slot creep closer. ‘Pray without ceasing’ said St Paul to the Thessalonians. Without ceasing Paul? I don’t know if I can make it through the first 10 minutes!
Having a prayer plan
I needed a plan, a prayer plan! Perhaps it sounds a bit of strange idea to plan for prayer, but actually people have been doing it for centuries. You only have to walk into your local parish church and you’ll find entire books full of prayer plans (formally called The Book of Common Prayer).
To get through what felt like it was going to be a marathon hour, I did what any good runner would do – set some short distance targets. I decided to split my hour into 15 minute chunks, with each one dedicated to a particular type of Prayer: Thanksgiving, Lament, Confession, Petition.
I also decided that praying for an hour, or even 15 minutes didn’t mean I had to be in constant spoken word with God, I could read the bible, sit in contemplation, speak and listen.
Praying from the confines of my bedroom, wanted to find a way to connect to the living world that surrounds us. Rather than crack open the window to listen to the sounds of my urban London street, I found myself a video on Youtube of a beautiful stream surrounded by woodland and listened to the trickle of water, sound of birds and the rustle of leaves as I entered my time of prayer.
Praying in chunks
I set my phone alarm to 15 minutes, my first prayer chunk. This 15 minutes was spent in contemplation, listening to the sounds of nature, and reading the first chapter of Genesis. It was wonderful to read aloud and take in this beautiful and ancient story of the world’s beginnings and to reflect and give thanks for what we have been gifted, it is indeed, ‘very good’.
When the 15 minutes timed out, the next began. This time spending time recognising that what was gifted and very good had been tainted by our actions individual and collective. That climate breakdown is of our making and that it is the poorest who are suffering. I named nations and places most impacted and recognised the human and environmental cost of the climate crisis before God, our maker.
From this lament came confession, which formed my next 15 minutes. I lay before the cross my own part in the problem, the part played by my nation and my government. I said sorry. I waited. I put my trust in the forgiveness we are offered and recognised that repentance is to turn from our old ways to new ones.
In an act of turning, my next 15 minutes lay in petition both prayerful and practical. I called on God to give me the strength and will to change. I lifted those living at the brunt of the crisis before God asking for hope and change. I prayed for government, local, national and global – that those with decision making power would have the ambition to make this climate crisis, climate justice. And then I took action, signing Christian Aid’s petition calling for a New Deal for Climate Justice, putting my name with thousands of others to say we need urgent change.
And as my hour closed, I thought that maybe St Paul was onto something when he said ‘pray without ceasing’, to put yourself in the attitude of unceasing prayer even just for an hour is a powerful and transformative act. I was blessed to be part of the prayer chain and to say Amen To Climate Justice.