"I was never taught to pray" - Gravity & the human prayer needPete Greig - 14 Apr 2016
Today's #throwbackthursday post is from back in 2013, when the Oscar-winning film Gravity hit our screens. Whether you've watched it or not, Pete's words about starting to pray are worth reading.
Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, hit cinemas last month and grossed a staggering £250m. With its tagline of “Don’t let go”, it's a white-knuckle ride of suspense and desperation, as the main characters are left stranded in space trying desperately to cross the void between their destroyed shuttle and the International Space Station.
It's a game-changer in cinematography, but also raises some profound question about prayer in times of crisis.
In the middle of this film we find Ryan Stone (played by Sandra Bullock) lament about no-one ever having taught her how to pray. We might think - that's ridiculous; prayer isn't something you LEARN; it’s instinctive! When you're hurtling towards death you don't need to do liturgy! - and of course that's true.
Everyone prays. It's instinctive. In fact, a recent survey of young adults in the UK showed that 93% pray. When a plane is crashing even atheists yell 'help!' to the one they don't believe in.
Yet prayer is also something we learn. The disciples asked Jesus 'please teach us to pray' - and who hasn't sometimes run out of words and felt helpless in prayer, late night in a Prayer Room; sitting by a hospital bed; staring at a sunrise; watching horrific news stories unfold? These things are bigger than any of us.
Interestingly, the prayer said by Sandra Bullock as she hurtles towards death, mirrors the Ignatian prayer model called Examen in which she reflects on her life and asks God "Where were you in it?"and apologises to Him too.
Spurgeon said that prayer is an art that only the Holy Spirit can teach us. Pray - he said - until you can really pray.
And that's the power of Prayer Rooms. People get alone with God and learn to pray by simply cutting out the middle man and talking, or being, or even telling God that we don't really know how to talk to Him.
How many of us sometimes secretly feel like Sandra Bullock - lost, scared and wondering how to pray? Perhaps that's reason that the film has topped the US box office for three weeks - because it echoes the deepest cries of our human condition. That, and George Clooney, of course.
Why not offer to pray for someone today? In 13 years of 24-7 prayer we've found over and over again that people who don't want to be preached at, still want to be prayed for.