Prayer – the practice of the presence of God

Prayer – the practice of the presence of God

Ray Eveleigh, a retired clergyman who leads a progressive Christian group near Driffield, makes a plea for us to find a way to pray which escapes the boundaries of a theology we can't believe in.

I have several good books on ‘How to Improve Your Snooker’. I have others on piano technique and jazz improvisation which I have read with great enthusiasm. However, what they have in common is the insistence on regular practice. This is time consuming and it requires a high level of commitment and discipline which, alas, I lack. The same thing can be said of Prayer – the practice of the presence of God. To love means to spend time in the other’s presence. Archbishop Desmond Tutu said that he needs to spend two hours in prayer each day otherwise he fails to cope with the demands of his ministry. I knew a lady once – she was my sister’s mother-in-law and a devout Roman Catholic – who said that she went to early Mass every morning, otherwise she would not be able to cope with her family of seven children.

So, what is this thing called ‘prayer’?

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Women in the spread of Christianity

Women in the spread of Christianity

Harry Houldsworth examines what he considers to be the forgotten role played by women in the growth of Christianity

In my family I didn't have siblings, but my female cousins, my mother, aunts and grandparents, were all independent thinkers, not afraid to offer their own opinions; they could match menfolk in any discussion.  It is commonly believed that in ages past women rarely had this opportunity to influence debate.  The authors of Genesis, for example, could only visualise God as male, and the woman as a helper to man: she was seen as an after-thought, made from a spare rib. It follows that much of the Bible was written by men who, largely, thought in this way.

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The Fear of God

The Fear of God

Richard Holdsworth argues that being possessed with a fear of God is not a state to be inculcated in our young. And he finds support for his view that at least some Biblical passages on the subject have been misinterpreted.

Scene: a post-WW2 British classroom in rural Yorkshire: The teacher backhands a schoolboy’s ear with his ring finger.

Holdsworth (indignantly), “Ouch, sir! That hurt!”

Teacher (chuckling), “It was meant to, lad!”

At school and at home kids were frequently, legally and expertly whacked across the head or summarily slapped, judicially caned and otherwise callously abused in attempts to instil in us, “the fear of God”. Paradoxically those pitiless assaults resulted not in my conformity but in rebellion against unfair authority and a life-long commitment to social justice. 

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