Pray without Ceasing: A week of prayer at St Paul’s Cathedral
In the heart of the City surrounded by the hub of business and finance, St Paul’s Cathedral stands firm, commanding a presence unlike any other. And if you were to walk into the Chapel of St Michael’s and St George at St Paul’s Cathedral this week you would be struck by the beauty of the historic space.
However last week you would have been be struck by something different, a sense of peace and the sight of a room filled with people who came to pray and be in the presence of God. Together with 24-7 Prayer, the Diocese of London was hosting a week of prayer, starting at midnight on Pentecost and ending at midnight on Trinity Sunday. The Church in London came together to ‘pray without ceasing’, with slots booked by churches throughout the Diocese to pray both in the chapel and locally across the Diocese.
The chapel is situated just inside the entrance to the cathedral, close to where tourists join the queue for tickets. Many visitors came in out of curiosity to see what was happening and many stayed to pray and use the various stations placed around the chapel to guide visitors in their prayers.
Each station was designed to give visitors from all traditions the freedom to pray and practise the presence of God. A core aspect of each station was the ‘Pray for Seven’ strand of Capital Vision, as we each pray for seven people that we may share with them the story of our faith. One year on from the launch, Capital Vision is at the heart of the week of prayer and we continue to pray for God’s guidance as we continue to work to share the Gospel with more confidence, creativity and compassion.
The centrepiece of the room was a fishing net for people to tie written prayers onto. This was inspired by when Jesus called his disciples in the Gospel of Luke, asking them to launch out to deeper water to fish. They responded in obedience and were rewarded for their faith in the amount of fish they caught. Jesus then said to them: ‘do not be afraid; from now on you will fish for people’ (Luke 5:10 NIV). The net therefore symbolises our call to go in faith into ‘deep water’; perhaps areas where there is a real need for God to move or lives that we hope that He may touch and the people with whom we long to share the story of our faith.
To encourage people to pray for London we had a Tube map as a visual aid, with stickers provided for people to show where in London they are from. It soon became filled with a number of colourful dots with visitors from around the city. We also provided prompts for prayer for other areas; Liverpool, Berlin, New York and ALMA.
Another station was a PowerPoint to lead people through the Lord’s Prayer, a series of prayers inspired by Celtic prayers to encourage visitors to pray for different areas of their lives and also a prayer rope station, inspired by the Orthodox tradition at which guests used a rope to pray the Jesus Prayer ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner’.
On Friday the net was a blue sea of prayers, written in many languages and by the young and the old. Something that stayed with me from my time at the chapel on Friday was when a father and his young son stood at the fishing net and wrote prayers together whilst a group of visitors stood at the map of London, each placing their mark. These people had not booked slots but were passing through and were drawn to the chapel as they walked into St Paul’s. I thought this moment reflected so much of what we want to do as part of Capital Vision, to reach people of all ages where they are, by sharing the gospel in creative ways and opening our churches to the community.