The work of God

My mother was a great one for a routine.  Monday was wash day, Tuesday lots of cleaning, Thursday was the trip to the shops, Friday afternoon baking and so forth. She said that this was the only way that she could work. My sister and I have inherited some of that and living by routine feels to me to be liberating.  You may question that.  Isn’t it just a bind, no space for experimentation, no wriggle room? Wouldn’t it be good if occasionally I washed on a Wednesday and not a Saturday, that I did this or that on another day, live a bit more spontaneously, a bit more dangerously? Well it might work for some but for me. To be honest, I like the security of knowing that the washing and the cleaning will get done because they happen predictably and I don’t need to make decisions about them, in a way think about them.

So I suppose that I naturally fitted into the regularity of the pattern of living and praying expected of a priest.  I say expected because there is a Canonical duty upon us that we pray the Office, Morning and Evening Prayer, daily and publicly. All Christians are expected to pray and so we are no different in that except that the priest does it on behalf of the people dashing off to work, they hear the church bell ringing as they catch the 7.45 to Waterloo and know that the priest is on their kneew.  Well, that is the formal, romantic ideal – but an ideal not to be disparaged or dismissed.

One of the best things about my smartphone is the Church of England ‘Daily Prayer’ app.  It is the most wonderfully useful app I have to be honest.  Wherever I am I can say my prayers, without lugging a library with me.  Romnan Catholic clergy have the blessing of the Breviary which in three volumes, one for each part of the year, contains all the texts necessary for praying the ‘Divine Office’, the Liturgy of the Hours.  But Anglicans have to take with them at least three books – the Lectionary, which is the most complicated document, a kind of clerical ‘log tables’ which gives you the calendar and readings and psalms for each day.  Then you need your prayer book, either the BCP or Common Worship: Daily Prayer which has the form of the Office and the psalms.  Then you need a Bible and as both main Offices include readings from the Old and New Testaments you can’t get away with just the NT.  So praying ‘on the go’ involves lugging all of this around.  So the app is a godsend in that it is like a virtual Breviary containing all things necessary.  It means that the priest can say the Office where they are, and the person on the 7.45 to Waterloo can equally say the Office where they are! It’s a great act of democratisation in doing the work of nGod, what we know in church-speak as the ‘opus dei’.

The poet George Herbert wrote lines which we often sing

Seven whole days not one in seven, I will praise thee.

That is the rule we live by, the regularity that we seek to establish, the pattern of prayer that is as routine as breathing that doesn’t involve making decisions but is simply part of living as a child of God. I’m fortunate to have colleagues to pray with and a choir who will add glorious music to the opus dei enhancing the experience of praying.  But neither of those things is necessary for praying, just the will, the desire to pray, the time, the place, be that in a cathedral or church, in a crowded carriage or a quiet kitchen after the kids have gone to school, with books, or an app, knowing that God is with us in our praying as God will be with us in our working.

God, give us the desire to pray, and the space to do it. Amen.

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A Southwark Cathedral Pilgrimage 2017

Canda, Jerusalem, Mucknall

Southwark Diocesan Pilgrimage 2016

Hearts on Fire - Pilgrims in the Holy Land

A good city for all

A good city for all

In the Steps of St Paul

Southwark Cathedral Pilgrimage June 2015


Reflections from the Dean of Southwark

Passion in real time - a retreat for Holy Week

Led by the Dean of Southwark, the Very Revd Andrew Nunn

Andrew Nunn's reflections from General Synod

the personal views of the Dean of Southwark