Since moving into a new room a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been keen to set up a special prayer space in my new abode. My old house was too small, but my new room is lovely and spacious, and as such I’m lucky enough to have a mini bookcase in my bedroom dedicated to prayer and spiritual development:
The books themselves are important to me – most of them are compilations of prayer or Office books – but the thing I’m most excited about is the space on top of the bookcase.
After recently reading How to Pray by John Pritchard, in which he places emphasis on the physical space in which we pray, I realised that I didn’t really have anywhere special to go and talk to God. I have church, but that’s no good at midnight when I need to take time to engage with prayer. Of course, one can pray anywhere, and praying in front of an icon is no more or less valid than praying on a bus or a park, but having a dedicated prayer space can help with the frame of mind and concentration needed. I certainly feel at the moment that, as well as prayer in day to day life, I need somewhere at home where I only ever go to pray, that doesn’t remind me of anything else. I wanted to keep it simple, so there are only a couple of things on the top of the bookcase, all of which are very special to me.
The cross is self-explanatory – when praying to God, what better to look at than the symbol of his sacrifice? Looking at the cross always brings to mind, for me, not only this but also the words of Julian of Norwich during her illness and near death: ‘everything except the cross was ugly to me, as though crowded with fiends’. Everything should be ugly to us except the love displayed through the cross, and the joy we can take in this demonstration of God’s special care for His creation.
To the left of the cross I have an angel statue which was given to me by some dear friends at my baptism. Whenever I look at it I’m reminded of the day on which I gave my life to God, and of my baptismal promises to reject evil and to fully love God. I’m also reminded of a sweet conversation with my friends in which they told me they’d hunted high and low for an angel with short hair, as I had short hair at the time.
In between the cross and angel, not very visible in the picture, is an ammonite fossil which I found on the beach at Whitby. This reminds me of my vocation, as I was staying with a community at the time, but also of my favourite saint, Hilda, who was Bishop of Whitby and one of the greatest women the church has ever seen.
Finally, I have a new addition to the space: a prayer pot. I often find it hard to bring other people into my prayer without it feeling very contrived and awkward. So, I now have a pot which contains dozens of screwed up little pieces of paper, each with a name or intention written on it. Each day, during prayer, I can take a piece of paper out and pray for that person, remembering the times I’ve had with them, and coming to better understand them through God. Even when I’m not praying for them, they’re there, real, physical reminders of the people, permanently next to the cross and in the most special place I can personally offer them.
So, when I pray, I am reminded of the passion and crucifixion of my Lord, of my baptismal vows, of the strength to be drawn from the examples of the saints and from prayerful discernment of my vocation, and of God’s love expressed through friendship and the loving kindness of the people I know and have known. These things together enhance my prayer life beyond words, and I am ever grateful to the loving God for speaking and listening to me every day through prayer and contemplation. Amen.