I’ve just completed running the same Lent course on prayer in two different churches. For most of the five weeks it has felt like a slog. Comments on the suggested prayer patterns such as, ‘No, that did nothing for me’; struggling with the usual small group issue of who is confident to speak and who isn’t; and finding that people haven’t done the suggested prayer exercises in between sessions (the book says the success of the course depends on this).
So imagine my surprise in brief feedback sessions last night and this morning to hear a raft of positive comments. Some couldn’t pinpoint anything but knew the course had done them good; some had never engaged at this level with how to pray before and they were glad they had; a couple mentioned specific prayer exercises that had been significant for them.
This was greatly encouraging but also raises various questions: was it all just building up under the surface until at the end the benefits became clearer? Was I desperate for some kind of human affirmation rather than divine, given that in one of these two churches it’s hard to get feedback most times except when someone wants to moan (not that I’ve had any of the standard moaners in the groups)? Had I not trusted the Holy Spirit to be at work?
I don’t have the answers, but I’m grateful. Ironically some of the course material might help me explore that. Two of the highlights for me were the way the book expounded both the lectio divina method of praying the Bible (helpfully expressed not in Latin headings, which I’ve never studied, but as ‘read, reflect, respond, rejoice’) and the examen method of examining where God has been at work in the previous day. I suspect I might need to do an examen of the entire five weeks, because clearly God was at work and I didn’t notice at the time, just as it’s possible with a daily examen to review the day’s activities and realise God was up to something under my nose but I missed it in the busyness of life.