Rhythm of prayer in community

Share this article

By Steve Summers

rhythm‘As a deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God! I thirst for God, for the living God. I say, “When will I be able to go and appear in God’s presence?”’ Psalm 42: 1&2 (NIV)

‘Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.’ Matthew 11: 28-30 (The Message/Word on the Street)

Prayer matters.

I popped to the Daily Bread Co-operative Ltd., Northampton one day, since we’d run out of the porridge and nuts that I like to eat for breakfast. I hadn’t been there for a while so was pleased to see that they had recently won the ‘UK Growing Cooperative of the Year’.

It’s a place close to my heart and has been formative for me on my Christian faith journey. As an unemployed, ‘not-sure-where-I-was-going’ 18-year old, thanks to a ‘chance’ conversation, I found myself as a volunteer as the wholefood warehouse business opened to the public for the first time (1980). The Co-operative had been set up by a bunch of Christians who had been meeting in a house-group for prayer and bible study and wanted to put their faith into practice, not merely to talk about it.

The ‘5 fundamentals’ of the business, agreed in 1982, are:

WORK is fundamental. We wish to earn our living by working together in a relationship which is enriching and creative and which values each individual. As a workers’ co-operative we will share the policy decisions which affect our work and share the financial results of it, in good times and in bad.

FOOD is fundamental. We wish to trade as suppliers of wholefoods which have good nutritional value and are good value for money.

OTHER PEOPLE are fundamental. We will have an outgoing concern for people recovering from mental illness, by offering them employment in a supportive setting and by assisting them to return to open society.

THE WORLD is fundamental. We will not retreat from the world around us but will endeavour to develop an enterprise which is viable in the market economy in which we find ourselves. We recognise that we are part of the rich world rather than a part of the deprived world, but we do not accept that contemporary value judgements and trade patterns are unchangeable. Therefore, we shall give a significant percentage of our total remuneration to causes outside the co-operative, with special reference to Third World causes.

COMMITMENT is fundamental. We are a fellowship. We will have a discipline of prayer and worship together. We will care for each other. Our inspiration comes from Jesus Christ. What we do is a venture of faith and we believe it will succeed just as far as we discern God’s will and act upon it.

I wonder what’s fundamental to your organisation, school, business or church?

What impressed me the most while working there was that at 11am each day a bell would ring – as it did when I popped in – and apart from those who were serving customers at the tills, everyone would stop work and, if they wanted to, join in a collective time of simple prayer. 38 years later, it’s encouraging to know that this unforced daily rhythm continues at the heart of the enterprise!

The other thing I noticed as a young Christian was each lunchtime, without fail, Roger Sawtell, one of the founders of the business, would ‘disappear’ outside to a quiet place under a tree by a small stream to pray. Roger is a remarkable person who had his 90th birthday celebrations last year; he’s one of the founders of ‘Traidcraft’ and of ‘Shared Interest’, is still involved with many charities and has always emphasised the importance of a rhythm of daily prayer, something that has stayed with me all these years. Roger also introduced me to, and encouraged me to visit, the Taize community as a young person, another important place for me on my faith journey, where 3 times each day the church bells ring, everyone is invited to gather for prayer, followed by a simple but nutritional community meal together.

These experiences became stepping-stones that eventually led me towards my community development training at Westhill College, Birmingham and the ongoing grappling with how to be effectively engaged in the world around us, how to be generous and to build community where we’re all involved in the decisions that influence us, and how to empower people to live life in all fulness. And as an apprentice, to continually try to answer the nagging question, ‘how may I put my fragile faith into practice where I am?’

Andrew Roberts in Holy Habits says that “Of all the holy habits, prayer is the one most at risk of becoming dry and difficult.”

I’d echo that, but I’d encourage us to enjoy a daily rhythm to attend to God, to try to recognise God in all things, and to pray with thanksgiving at all times, even when, as the Psalmist writes, we feel depressed or upset, or when we feel worn out with everything that we think we need to do.

Share this article