This Sunday one of the readings is from the letter of James (5:13-16):
If any of you are having troubles, they should pray. If any of you are happy, they should sing praises. If any of you are sick, they should call the church’s elders. The elders should pour oil on them in the name of the Lord and pray for them. And the prayer that is said with faith will make the sick person well. The Lord will heal. And if any have sinned, God will forgive them. Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other. Do this so that God can heal you. When a good person prays, great things happen.
This brief passage captures the pattern of prayer within our services week by week, encompassing praise and thanksgiving, confession and intercession. The passage also hints at the many ways that prayer may be communicated: in quiet, in song, in hands-on actions, alone, with friends, with the body of the Church. The opening of heart and mind to God happens anywhere and everywhere: before a lit candle or holding a cup of tea, in the peace of a church or walking bridleways and pavements, in desperation and in expressions of creativity … But however and wherever we pray, prayer is never solitary.
I’ve been enjoying Merlin Sheldrake’s book Entangled Life, about the fascinating hidden depth and range of the interconnectedness of the world’s ecosystems held together by vast mycelium networks that act as communication and nutrition carriers and health support systems. The fungi exist in many forms, in dramatically diverse conditions, with surprising interactions, and without them our life could not exist. The blurb on the jacket says,
“The more we learn about fungi, the less makes sense without them. They can change our minds, heal our bodies and even help us avoid environmental disaster.”
I found myself thinking we could easily replace fungi here with prayer. As we pray, God makes us into a ‘mycelial’ network through which the Holy Spirit flows, conveying nourishment and distributing comfort (a strengthening and a source of alleviation and relief) into situations of need. Prayer is not something we do in isolation. As church, we pray to God in thanksgiving and in intercession for each other, for the world; we also as church represent our communities as we pray. As we do this, whether individually or gathered collectively, we are joining with millions of others around the world in every situation and location, and with generations who have prayed before us and will pray after us. And the results of prayer are far-reaching, sometimes surprising and sometimes something that as individuals we cannot see. But as James writes, out of prayer great things happen. Being a part of this network of prayer is a part of the task of loving God in loving our neighbour and of being the universal Church filled with the Holy Spirit, worshipping and serving God.
Image courtesy of Daily Theology https://dailytheology.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/consciousnature11_01.jpg