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Chaplaincy and the Prayer Renaissance?

Posted by admin at 8:08 AM on May 5, 2020

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An article in the online edition of the Church Times yesterday drawing on a survey by the charity Tearfund, suggested that ONE in 20 adults have started to pray during the lockdown, despite having not praying before.

The online poll of 2,101 adults was published last Sunday and was carried out by the research consultancy Savanta ComRes, between 24 and 27 April.

Leaving aside some of the obvious health warnings when it comes to gauging public opinion on issues of the day, the article does throw up some interesting analysis from among those who did take part. Click here for the complete article.

What caught my eye reading as it were with my Chaplain’s Hat on, was the final paragraph which is reproduced below-;.

The results bear similarities to a survey published by Tearfund in 2018 (News, 19 January 2018), which found one in five non-religious people saying that they had prayed in the past. Of these, 55 per cent said that tragedy and disaster were the most common reasons for praying. Almost one quarter said that they prayed as “a last resort” during a crisis.

How many times in the past and possibly more recently, have we heard people say things along the lines of, “I’m not normally religious but last night I said a prayer” or, “I prayed to God last night, I hope he heard me” during times of illness or bereavement or some other major personal crisis? As Chaplains we usually either offer to pray for people in such situations or we may be asked to pray if not by the people directly affected themselves, then by friends or relatives or work colleagues etc.

In previous times of national crisis, instances of people turning to prayer or spiritual comfort were quite common, especially among service families, as their sons and daughters were sent abroad potentially into harm’s way. Military chaplains in particular are adept at dealing with these circumstances as are their civilian counterparts (both lay and ordained) in hospitals, hospices and care homes where prayer is quite often the option of first resort not the last, but again in the context of crisis or other times of great anxiety or suffering.

As the possibility of an easing of the lockdown begins to gain more and more traction in our national consciousness, how can we as workplace chaplains tap into this new found recognition of the power of prayer to bring comfort and peace in the most difficult of circumstances? How can we adapt our ministry so that as we exit this crisis, we too can encourage those to whom we serve that prayer whatever the circumstances becomes the option of first resort?

There is however no specific one-size-fits-all approach that can be offered: each of us must determine what works best in our own situations. However whether it’s prayers of thanksgiving, intercession or petition, private or corporate, workplace chaplains are in many ways uniquely placed - particularly when the country begins to return to whatever normal will eventually look like - to help lead that renaissance of prayer, lest it becomes another fad to be forgotten or discarded until the next crisis occurs.


Michael Cronogue