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Beside, before, behind

| Simon Bale | Vicar's Blog

Each Friday a few of us gather at 9am in North Curry church and say some prayers. Nothing grand. Nothing too formal. In fact of late we have been sitting next to a bowl of water collecting drips from the ceiling of the leaking chancel roof and have listened-in to the contractors from Taylor’s who are reinstalling the bells.

Christ be with me,Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

It is a gentle way to start the day, the more so because the four or five of us who gather have a bit of a natter. It is the first natter of the day for some. We speak of things big and small. Perhaps the weather (what am I saying, “perhaps”?: always the weather. We’re British!), perhaps asking if we know who’s car that is parked by the kissing gate, or maybe whether we’ve seen the beautiful flowers emerging from the ground in the churchyard.

We speak of family matters and of worldly crises. Of loved ones who may have moved house or fallen ill, or other matters. We speak of wars and rumours of wars. The large and the small of life. Then we sit quietly and begin our reveries. We ask each other if there is anything we need to pray for, perhaps those same people who have moved house or who are struggling with their health. No names, sometimes, just “someone dear to me”.

Then we begin to pray. Except, we’ve been praying for a while already, in a manner of speaking. The prayers we say that are written down are the formalised expressions of what we think all the day long. But prayer is often hidden by the grandiosity. Even uttering the word “prayer” can make the activity seem overly pious, pompous even. Prayer is simply a conversation with God and God hears us no matter which words or phrases we use nor even what intentions we have in our hearts when we utter them. We speak to God when we speak to ourselves, inside ourselves, just as we speak to God when we utter those thoughts out loud. Prayer is nothing more and nothing less a time with God, through Christ.

Each Friday morning we conclude our prayers by reciting a passage from St Patrick’s breastplate (as shown above). It is a beautifully phrased petition to God that we may be near to Christ our redeemer, who cares and encourages us through this journey of life. You might like to speak it to yourself, and be close to the light that moves the cosmos: in your very own heart.