TES Scotland magazine recently carried an article on rest. One of the questions the article raises is what constitutes rest. For many teachers, the first week or so of the holidays will have been spent sleeping. On more than one occasion, teachers have spent most of a holiday in bed with flus etc.
As I suggested in my last post, rest is more than this. It’s about recreating ourselves and reminding ourselves that there are other sides to our character that need to be attended to; and summer is a great time to do that. Prayer is the ultimate recreation.
This is our last post for a couple of weeks, so I hope to leave you with some ‘homework’!
Often, teachers tell me they have no time to pray. They might lead their classes in prayer, prepare children to pray, or organise prayer services. But they themselves don’t have much time in the hubbub of term time for personal prayer. Now is the time.
I subscribe to the idea that there are so many ways to pray, and the type of prayer that suits me might not suit you. We have to experiment a little to find out what kind of prayer works.
It might be that traditional prayer is just the ticket: the rosary or the chance to attend a morning mass during the week. Meditation might help others, or imaginative contemplation.
There are loads of prayer websites. The Jesuits have some great prayer material, and I have found their spirituality to be very supportive of an active apostolate. It’s also worth checking out www.christianmeditation.org.uk where you will find some simple but effective suggestions for prayer.
Whatever time you have for prayer and however you do it, it is time well spent. Sometimes when we don’t get around to prayer, or we miss a few days, we get disheartened and give up. We can be very hard on ourselves. If we miss a session or two, so what? We are only one step away from starting again. Also, summer can be an opportunity to establish a prayer routine that can be carried into the academic year.
We can start with familiar prayers, rather than going for something ‘exotic’. Why not start with the ‘Our Father’ and, instead of rushing it, as we often do during work days, take 5 or 10 minutes over it, thinking about the words and the ideas and feelings that arise?
For me, scripture is the ideal focus and foundation for our prayer. Through and in the scriptures, we believe that it is God who is speaking to me personally, as well as the whole Church and world.
Perhaps you could start with the Sunday readings. You may have a missal or a bible, or your parish provides a sheet with the readings that you can take home. There are free online bibles. For a one-off payment of £9.99, you can have access to the ‘Universalis’ app, which gives you the daily readings, morning and evening prayer of the Church, and lots more, forever!
How to read scripture
When we come to scripture, God is speaking to us. Often ideas and images can come into our minds when we read, and that’s one way of praying with scripture. Another is to read over the words slowly and deliberately, savouring the words. Sometimes a word or phrase will stick in your mind. You don’t know why, it just does. Let it, and just stay with it.
It needn’t be for hours
Fifteen or so minutes a day of any kind of prayer is great. The summer gives us a chance to experiment a little with prayer, finding something different, or just an opportunity to rest with God in the familiar.