Faced with the difficulties and challenges of lockdown in Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains, parishioners in the Diocese of Parramatta joined together on Tuesday night to discuss new and creative ways to pray and reflect on the importance of prayer in their lives.
One of the newest ministry teams in the Diocese of Parramatta, the Pastoral Formation Team, hosted an hour-long session on ‘Prayer in our Lives’, as part of the HOME Ground program. The Diocese’s Head of Formation for Mission, Sr Grace Roclawska csfn, introduced the evening as a chance to “pray from the heart”
Participants revealed the many ways they pray including singing worship songs, spending quiet time in adoration and during walks in nature and having a casual conversation with God. The Pastoral Formation Team offered up their own form of prayer by showing a pre-recorded video of them singing and praying to How Great is Our God by Chris Tomlin.
Pastoral Formation team member Raimie Caramancion showcased three creative ways in which people can engage in prayer during lockdown, when they are in ‘the domestic church’, or the ‘church of the home’.
These include online adoration, using a prayer intentions book to write your own prayers and those of others, and prayer apps and websites including Pray As You Go and Hallow.
“It is our hope that these [ways] will encourage you in your prayer life and in your faith journey,” she said.
Sr Helen Cunningham OP from St Patrick’s Parish, Guildford, shared how prayer should be a two-way conversation, involving not only speaking but also listening.
“You need to have those silent times, the times of sitting and just being there, present to Our God who is made known to us through Jesus and the power of the Spirit, and to sit there and wait. This time [of lockdown] is a waiting time,” she said.
Pastoral Formation team member Bernadette Ho shared that when she is asked to pray for someone, if she is speaking to them on the phone, she requests that they pray together now.
Bernadette also prays is through her experience of Lectio Divina. Lectio Divina is a contemplative way of reading the Scriptures, reflecting on them, responding to what they are saying and then letting it rest in our thoughts.
“What I like most about Lectio Divina is that it’s that heart-to-heart moment with God,” she said.
“It’s not an intellectual moment or an exercise, it’s not me being in study mode or time to analyse the text. It’s not a time for me to tick off something off my busy list during the day. Instead, it’s really a time for me to get out of my head, and to enjoy God. I think it’s more about nurturing and growing that relationship.”
The parishioners took the chance to try Lectio Divina themselves, focussing on Mark 4:35-41, which details the story of Jesus calming the storm.
Sr Grace explained that we can’t talk about prayer without talking about relationships with others and with God.
“Lectio Divina is one of those experiences where we are in relationship with God, when we experience those moments of silence, of maybe awkwardness, or sometimes sleepiness – these times can be moments of God’s grace and when he connects our story with His story,” she said.
The evening closed with prayers of thanksgiving, with parishioners sharing their gratitude for the time to pray, for safety, and for being helped through the difficult times.
If you are looking for more prayer resources to help you through lockdown, the Diocese of Parramatta’s online resource hub The Well has sections dedicated to spiritual nourishment and prayer and worship. Read, watch and listen to a variety of content for free by visiting thewell.org.au.
To re-watch the Pastoral Formation Team’s ‘Prayer in our Lives’ session, and to participate in an experience of Lectio Divina, watch the video on the Diocese of Parramatta’s Facebook page.