Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.Romans 5v3-5
In a matter of days the city has gone from its incessant noise and bustle to near silence. The streets are empty, and for once the sound of the church bells can be heard. But the sudden gear change is hard. This is a tough time, and it will be for some time to come. That is true of all those who are working day and night to serve others – from the heroic efforts of medical professionals to supermarket staff. But these events will made serious demands on us as individuals too and will test our character.
Now while there is often an immediate benefit to prayer, in the sense of peace and perspective that it brings, the real benefit is long term – in the way that prayer shapes and forms our character. Prayer is far more than just asking for things; it is spending time consciously in the presence of God, our Father and our friend. And that persistent, diligent prayer shapes us. We learn to trust, to be thankful, to hope and to be patient. To bear our struggles and to be joyful even in the midst of hardship. And that is one of the motivations to pray even when it is a struggle. If we are convinced something does us good, even if it is hard, we will do it when we don’t want to. In fact perhaps that is the mark of disciplined prayer is praying when you don’t feel like it. And that is the great benefit of some pattern of structured or liturgical prayer. Just as Jesus gave use a pattern to pray in the form of the Lords Prayer.
Today is the memorial of the death of the architect of the Church of England Thomas Cranmer in 1556, – you can find the spot where he was martyred marked by a cross on the road in Broad Street, Oxford. He lived in remarkable and dangerous times, and navigated a volatile political and religious climate in order to reform a church, until events finally overtook him. But his enduring legacy is the Book of Common Prayer – the words of which have had a greater influence on the English language than even Shakespeare. And in that he essentially reframed the sevenfold daily prayer of the monastic life into a simple form of Morning and Evening prayer for everyone to pray.
And that pattern of prayer that continues to this day – you can find Anglican Morning and Evening prayer here. https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/join-us-service-daily-prayer
The benefit of this rich blend of worship and prayer with the cycle of Psalms and Bible readings is serious work – it is meat not . But is it rich and character forming, and roots our days in the rhythm of the church year and the grand narrative of scripture. It does not come easily – every young candidate for the ministry rails against the demands of this (I certainly did). But then over time, and as we need to find a pattern of prayer that will sustain and nourish us for the long haul, the wisdom of this pattern of prayer becomes clear. To sit quietly at the beginning of the day with words that lead me into the presence of God, and lift my eyes beyond the immediate to the eternal, well that is the only thing I know that can sustain me in all this.
“In the midst of life we are in death, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection.” Thomas Cranmer
[Pray] We most humbly beseech thee, of thy goodness, O Lord, to comfort and succour all those who, in this transitory life, are in trouble, sorrow, need, sickness, or any other adversity.
Intercessions from the Book of Common Prayer https://churchonthecorner.org.uk/resources/serviceleaders/1662-prayer-book-intercessions/