Viewpoint from Revd. Alison Iliffe Team Vicar in the Harborough Anglican Team
As a person of faith I am also a person who prays; praying daily is part of the rhythm of life I live by. Most major religions involve prayer in the practising of their faith.
Some of the most profound times of organised prayer for me have been when different faiths have come together to pray on behalf of our area, our nation, or our world, sometimes to celebrate together and also at times of uncertainty or tragedy.
One such time was in Leicester Cathedral in 2019 as Bishop Martyn led a vigil for victims of the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks in churches and hotels in Sri Lanka. Sitting amongst Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and other faith representatives, there was a feeling of solidarity, something beyond and above what we were there to remember. As candles were lit and incense, representing our prayers, rose, there was a ‘peace beyond what the world can give’ stilling those who were there, as together in prayer we tried to make sense of what had happened.
A 2018 survey on behalf of the charity Tearfund, found that more than 50 per cent of adults pray and the current pandemic has seen an increase in interest in prayer and people praying, as one in four people (some for the first time) turned to prayer and online worship.
As Christians around the world begin 11 days of prayer in a movement called ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ this week, when and why people pray continues to interest me. We watch a lot of football and sport in our house. As athletes come onto the pitch or prepare for a race it appears that some of them pray. Not everyone who prays can win so perhaps their prayer is for them to do their best and that they will honour God, their coaches, friends and themselves in their performance?
When tragedy or disaster happens people often turn to prayer and at those moments of heartbreak, when there seems nothing else left to say, God is always there waiting for us, whether we have the words or not. I’ve noticed that people also pray for their families and at moments of joy and thankfulness. All of this suggests to me a sense that those who pray feel that prayer makes a difference and is a source of comfort and peace.
In Harborough this year for ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ some of the churches across the town have come together to create outside prayer spaces. Using our notice boards there will be a different image and thought each day from May 13-23 as an encouragement to all to pause and reflect, and perhaps take a moment to pray. These reflections will also be found on the Churches Together in Harborough website.
Revd. Alison Iliffe is Team Vicar in the Harborough Anglican Team with responsibility for the Parish of the Transfiguration, comprising St Hugh, Northampton Road and St Nicholas, Little Bowden.