On Praying Together
This Sunday 18th February is the Universal Day of Prayer for Students, otherwise known as Student Sunday! UDPS is coordinated by the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF), and has been celebrated since 1898, making it one of the oldest ecumenical days of prayer. SCM Member Sian shares why she thinks praying, specifically praying in community, is still an important but often overlooked element of the Christian faith.
From the Song of Moses to the Our Father and beyond, prayer is shown to be a foundation stone in the Christian faith. We use it, amongst other things, to offer thanks, as a form of petition, and simply in order to maintain a dialogue with the living God. But prayer remains elusive to so many Christians because it is seen as a private matter. How do other people do it? Are we doing it ‘right’?
Jesus’ instruction us to pray in private (Matt 6:6) is often misread: while originally a warning against boastful piety, it is now often interpreted as proof that praying in front of others is somehow distasteful. The current trend seems to be for prayer to be a highly private and individualistic activity, and the rise of mindfulness has secularised meditative forms of prayer almost beyond recognition. Even church intercessions are seen by a lot of Christians not as a communal few moments of prayer, but as a time to retreat into their inner worlds of prayer and petition. While the primary focus of church should be prayer and worship, this kind of public prayer is often seen as a lesser, or certainly less authentic experience than the image we have of the individual praying alone. It takes a very strong and unusual faith to stand alone in this way, and I think this lack of value placed on corporate prayer is a great shame.
Christianity has always brought together people from wildly different backgrounds, from Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch to Jews and gentiles, and this can be continued very easily by praying together with others. University students are in the unique situation of belong to a community of people who they would be unlikely to meet otherwise, and are therefore in a prime position to continue this tradition. Prayer is accessible to everyone, and from Vespers at the Vatican to secret meeting in countries where Christianity is still outlawed, every prayer has equal value in the eyes of God. By praying together as well as praying alone, and giving equal value to each, students in particular can uphold one another during a very difficult time, reinforcing our bonds with one another, reaffirming our faith in life together, and ultimately bringing us one step closer to the beautiful vision in Acts 4 where we are ‘of one heart and soul’ in Christ.
If you want to prepare a service or session for your Church, small group or just want some prayer inspo we have produced a toolkit full of prayers, liturgy and activity suggestions. Not got time to prepare a service but still want to take up a collection for SCM? You can donate here!