Tag: Prayer

God’s love lies open before us

Joyce Smith has sent us a new photo reflection.
Our resident pair of mute swans have been leading their 8 newly hatched cygnets on a daily journey of discovery in Waltham Abbey. These two are enjoying the ride and are feeling protected by their mother’s wings.
With my love and prayers.
God bless, Joyce

It has been the custom of Christians to pray together in various ways but with one intent – to nurture the World and bring people, including each other, and nature to a closeness with God.  Joyce has given us an illustration of this in the photograph of the tiny mute swans gathering under the safety and protection of their mother’s wing.

There is something rather gently protective in this scene. We can sense a warmth and security and a restfulness. The caption under the photo could easily have been ‘Safe in our Mother’s arms’.

Joyce has chosen a sentence which is part of the first part of Morning Prayer or Matins as it is sometimes known.

How does this connect up with the protection and safety of the little swans ?

The problem sometimes with ‘Liturgy’ (the format and composition of worship ) is that it can be said unthinkingly. Or perhaps as part of a repetitive rhythm which encloses the Word of God it seeks to proclaim. Whereas, the Word of God should free and enclose us. That itself can be seen as placing ourselves under the protecting and nurturing of God. Maybe we aren’t too different as those baby swans after all. As we pray and recite the words of the services provided for our nourishment, we snuggle up to our protective and loving God.

There is always a sense that Morning Prayer is a beginning. We begin the day in prayer – whatever form we use.
And we have therefore come through the night safely.
So as a preparation to say : The night has passed, and the day lies open before us; let us pray with one heart and mind, begins a daily re-turning of our lives to God.
If we add to it, the second part of the sentence, that becomes abundantly clear: 
As we rejoice in the gift of this new day, so may the light of your presence, O God, set our hearts on fire with love for you; now and for ever. Amen.

Whatever the day will bring; however we feel about ourselves; whatever fears we face; however lacking in confidence we are; and how lonely or sad or bored we feel, combined of course with whatever joy, hopefulness and friendship we shall share, we can remind ourselves  very soon after wakening – God holds us; God protects us; God cares for us with a love beyond words. We are beginning our day in God’s presence. We know that we are secure in his protective, motherly love.

Our response to this is surely Thank You.

As the 12th century Dominican friar and mystic said:
If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is ‘Thank You’ (God) – It will be enough.

I’m quite sure that those cute baby mute swans will agree!

Thank you, Joyce ( and thank you, God.)

[Mr G]

A Future Not Our Own

Here is another Picture Reflection from my friend Joyce Smith.

The ponder quotation is attributed to Oscar Romero, the saint and martyr who died for his faith in El Salvador on 24th March, 1980 It is a thought contained in a very special prayer. The next words of the prayer are:

This enables us to do something and to do it very well. It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

The Prayer, A Future Not our own,  is worth praying through slowly because it has much to say to our souls particularly in these days when we are perhaps impatient to  get on with things and frustrated, perhaps even despondent and in despair with the Covid restrictions.
May the prayer reflection  have something meaningful  for us.


It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.

Nothing we do is complete,
– which is another way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No programme accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

That is what we are about.
We plant a seed that will one day grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything,
and there is a sense of liberation in realising that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning,
a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.

The prayer is known today as The Romero Prayer though, in truth, there is no evidence that he every prayed it! It was Cardinal Basil Hume who unwittingly first attributed it to St Oscar Romero. Delivering a paper at Westminster Cathedral on Catholic Education in 1997 he misattributed it. When the paper was subsequently published, the attribution remained and was taken up by CAFOD and Caritas Internationalis  in Rome. From then it went round the Global church and in the process became known as The Romero Prayer.
The prayer was actually composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, who drafted it for a homily for the celebration of a departed priest. The homily was delivered by Cardinal John Deaden.
It has become established as the Romero Prayer mainly because, though St Oscar may not have written or prayed it, it could easily have been. It has the essence of the Saint’s own teaching, theology and spirituality.  It is no surprise therefore that it has been ‘owned’ by devotees of the Saint who find so much in his teaching and example to guide, form and enrich their own thinking and praying.

To pray this prayer and own it would go a long way to helping us to look at what it is happening to us and to our disfigured world, and placing everything and our future into God’s hands.
Under God we are indeed prophets of a future not our own. We are prophets, heralds and signs of a new future which is God’s. In the many issues in which humanity has tried to rule and dictate how we treat the Planet, we  are being called to work afresh with God to reclaim everything for a new vision of what it means to be stewards and cherishers of the amazing ‘gift of our stupendous earth.

Maybe this virus will come to be the turning point of a genuine global repentance as we return our planet back to God for His safekeeping.

[Mr G and Canon Joyce]

Little Bird

This photo of one of Britain’s smallest birds, The Wren inspired me to share the Prayer of the Little Bird.

This weekend January 29th -31st is the annual ‘Big Garden Birdwatch.
The RSPB (The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), our leading conservation charity, across the UK says that nearly 9 million hours have been spent watching garden birds since the Birdwatch began in 1979 with more than 137 million birds counted. This has helped to provide the charity with valuable insight for its work.

What is the Big Garden Birdwatch?

2021 marks the 42nd RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, which sees keen birdwatchers across the UK join the largest garden wildlife citizen science project by spending one hour tracking the birds they see in their gardens, record them and then inform the RSPB. In the past 42 years, across the UK, hundreds of thousands of people have volunteered their time to count and log birds landing in their gardens, local country areas, ponds and wild-life areas. Unlike humans birds are not keeping lock-down and reminds us that not everything is restricted in movement. This year Big Garden Watch seems even more popular. For details and further information, log on to the RSPB and BBC Countryfile websites.

Meanwhile, I share the delightful prayer by Carmen Bernos De Gasztold translated by Rumer Godden – The Prayer of the Little Bird. It is from the collection Prayers from the Ark. This book is still available, mostly as a second hand copy.

The little Wren is singing its prayers of praise joyfully and will do so as the world enters Spring. We need to hear the birds as they help us to look in praise to God and lighten our hearts, our lives and our journey forward.

See, amid the winter’s snow

This photograph of Winter at Tarns Hows, in the Lake District, was taken by my friend Gill Henwood. It immediately brought to mind the Carol, See, Amid the winter’s snow. A reminder, too, that as the secular world packs away the Christmas decorations, Christians continue to celebrate the Christmas season, which, like Lent lasts for 40 days and comes to a conclusion on the Feast of Candlemass – February 2nd.
I offer this Carol as a continued meditation on the joy of the birth of Jesus, and the photo of God’s incredible brushtrokes as the snow dusts the wonders of nature. Long ago I climbed up to the summit of Helvellyn and saw this view from the other direction though not in winter . The breathtaking beauty is captured in the stillness around the Tarn and the movement of the clouds. For me it becomes an illustration, therefore, of the importance of balancing our activity with stillness.

For many this time of lockdown has provided opportunities, for those so minded and are able, to spend time in quietness and be reminded that we are not required to always be on the go. Indeed, that would be harmful. The psalmist wrote in Psalm 46, Be still and know that I am God. Those battling to nurse and care for patients in hospital, Covid sufferers and those with other life-threatening illnesses, cannot be still, nor those who are caring for people at home. So the call to stillness for those free to sit within it is a call to pray and be still on behalf of others. Prayer is never a last resort in any situation, it is always the first resort. We can do a mighty work just holding people in love to God.

I once questioned a nun about those in her community who were living the life of hermits in Wales. I had the temerity to say that they had it easy. They were free to pray as they wished. In the non-fierce ways that nuns have, she begged to differ! “The hermits are in the front-line of the battle against the demonic and all that is evil and which afflicts the life of our world. We hold them in love to God as they battle against darkness on our behalf.” I remember what she told me almost word for word!
Those of us who are able to do the same are doing a great and vital ministry ministry.

May the photo above help us to see what that ministry is. Stillness and contemplation of God together with activity on His behalf in loving others in prayer on His behalf. Especially those whose lives are very dark and very fearful right now.

1 See, amid the winter’s snow,
born for us on earth below,
see the tender Lamb appears,
promised from eternal years.

Hail! Thou ever-blessed morn!
Hail, redemption’s happy dawn!
Sing through all Jerusalem,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem.”

2 Lo, within a manger lies
He who built the starry skies;
He, who throned in height sublime,
sits amid the cherubim! [Refrain]

3 Say, ye holy shepherds, say,
what your joyful news today;
wherefore have ye left your sheep
on the lonely mountain steep? [Refrain]

4 “As we watched at dead of night,
lo, we saw a wondrous light;
angels singing ‘Peace on earth’
told us of the Savior’s birth.” [Refrain]

5 Sacred Infant, all divine,
what a tender love was Thine;
thus to come from highest bliss
down to such a world as this! [Refrain]

6 Teach, O teach us, Holy Child,
by Thy face so meek and mild,
teach us to resemble Thee
in Thy sweet humility! [Refrain]

[Mr G]