In our secular world the Christian faith, and prayer in particular, is regarded as a subject worthy of only scorn and derision.
Thus Rowan Atkinson presumes to tell us that ‘prayer doesn’t work’. Of course it doesn’t, if it is treated as a kind of magic wand to get God to do what we want. On the contrary, prayer has been defined as finding out what God wants to do in the world and joining Him in helping to get it done.
As Jesus taught us in the Lord’s prayer, the essence of prayer is the desire to do God’s will: ‘Thy will be done’.
Prayer certainly works if we are to believe the statistics showing that people who attend church prayer enjoy better health and a sense of wellbeing than those who don’t. Modern depth psychology would agree.
Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist, found his patients in the second half of life were only healed after discovering God at the centre of their soul. In the words of Jesus, ‘The kingdom of heaven is within you’.
In this process the ego or conscious self gradually becomes aware that it is not the whole of our personality, which includes the hidden world of the unconscious, where Jung describes his own experience of constantly circling round God as a planet resolves around the sun. So when asked in a TV programme if he believed in God, he famously replied; ‘I don’t need to believe; I know’.
Jung described this inner world as the collective unconscious which we all share, where we are not only united with God but discover our shared humanity.
As John Donne reminds us, ‘no man is an island entire of itself’. The tragedy of our secular world is we have lost touch both with God as our Creator and Father, and with each other. Hence the atomisation of today’s society which puts self first pursuing personal happiness and material things as our only goal, while losing sight of our common humanity and inter-dependence.
We need to rediscover our dependence upon God and on each other if society is to flourish. Even the Christian God, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is not solitary, but a community of Three –in –One.
As individuals we are all different and need to find the way of prayer that suits us best. Churches Together in Bognor Regis and District will be holding an ecumenical quiet day at St Wilfrid’s later this summer, exploring our spiritual heritage in all its rich variety, developing a vision of how to work together for the enrichment of our own local community as we pray for the coming of God’s Kingdom on earth.
Rev John Brown