please sir, can I have some more?

open handsI am not brilliant at praying. There are some people I know who are – it comes naturally to them. I don’t really mean finding the right words to use, it’s more about remembering to pray so I am in a conversation with God through the day.

You see the problem we have is that we can’t actually see God. Yes, I know we can see his fingerprints and experience him through the Bible, other people, nature and in loads of other ways, but not actually seeing him means that (if we are honest) we don’t always pray as much as we could. I know it’s true for me.

So I have developed a coping mechanism. I give myself visual cues as reminders. When I look in the mirror (aargh!) while washing my hands or brushing my teeth it is a visual cue to remind me to check and see if I need to say sorry to God for anything, and also whether I need to say sorry to anyone else. When I am walking or driving around I try to respond to visual cues to pray for other people.

For example, right now Colchester is in a fearful state having had two people brutally murdered in the space of about a couple of months. As I was driving around today I saw a police car and that reminded me of the situation and led me to pray for the police and the victims’ families and friends. I was in a school taking assemblies earlier today and as I looked out of the window before the children arrived I saw the top of the Town Hall. That reminded me to pray for the town, for those who are serving us as local politicians and Council staff. I drove near another school where a friend works and that reminded me to pray for him, for the school, and for those who are in education. I drove past the houses of some of our members and that reminded me to pray for them. When someone says ‘thank you’ to me I try also to have an attitude of gratitude to my Father in heaven.

You get the idea.

It’s not that I am superholy or anything like that. But if I go with my eyes open I can find all sorts of things to talk to God about. And I have come up with another one. I am exploring the Lord’s Prayer with our church on Sunday mornings and last time we looked at ‘give us today our daily bread…’ As I reflected on that I realised that while in Jesus’ day that was a prayer for survival in a subsistence existence for me in 21st Century Britain it can seem a little unnecessary. I have more than I need. I can go to a shop and choose from a bewildering array of bread at almost any time of day or night. I can even go online and have it delivered to my door.

‘Give us today our daily bread’ was an expression of dependence on God. It was a recognition that we need him in our life to meet our need for physical and spiritual nourishment. Today it’s almost reduced to punctuation in the prayer between asking for God’s will to be done and asking for his forgiveness (as we forgive…). So to counter this I am trying to pray (silently) ‘give us today our daily bread’ as I go into a shop for some food, or order it online, or even place an order for a takeaway delivery. I know that by the grace of God the food will be there for me.

But praying ‘give us today our daily bread’ as I enter a shop is an acknowledgement that I am the grateful recipient at the end of a food chain that starts with God and includes a lot of people before it arrives on my plate. Praying ‘give us today our daily bread’ as I enter a shop is an act of worship as I remind myself that God is looking out for me. And praying ‘give us today our daily bread’ is a corporate prayer (give us) that reminds me too that while I am privileged to have food there are plenty of people in the world who still live a subsistence existence and my praying is on their behalf too.

If you struggle to remember to pray, why not try some visual cues?

Be blessed, be a blessing.