Yet, I’d noticed in meeting that some Friends spoke of prayer – occasionally of the kind of prayer that I was used to in my church-going days but sometimes of a very different type of prayer. This form of prayer was a freer, holistic-type of experience – something that didn’t need words. In the way of Quaker worship, it was a stillness, listening, a seeking for connection with something beyond oneself. Some Friends found it in music, art or architecture but many reported finding it most easily in nature.
So, reflecting on these forms of prayer – ways of connecting with things much bigger than myself – I began to see that perhaps I did still pray. My prayers no longer consisted of words but the experience of connection that I found I could achieve in other ways was just as strong, if not stronger, for not being ‘drowned out’ by the words. So, to my surprise, I discovered that prayer was still a part of my life; it was simply a case of learning to recognise it.
Perhaps this approach to prayer was best expressed by Quaker Elfrida Vipont Foulds in 1983:
I read that I was supposed to make ‘a place for inward retirement and waiting upon God’ in my daily life, as the Queries in those days expressed it… At last I began to realise, first that I needed some kind of inner peace, or inward retirement, or whatever name it might be called by; and then that these apparently stuffy old Friends were really talking sense. If I studied what they were trying to tell me, I might possibly find that the ‘place of inward retirement’ was not a place I had to go to, it was there all the time. I could know the ‘place of inward retirement’ wherever I was, or whatever I was doing, and find the spiritual refreshment for which, knowingly or unknowingly, I was longing, and hear the voice of God in my heart. Thus I began to realise that prayer was not a formality, or an obligation, it was a place which was there all the time and always available. (Quaker faith and practice, 2.21)
Marina Raywood - Beccles Quaker Meeting - website - Facebook