Where do you stand when you say your prayers?

Siôn B. E. Rhys Evans
5 min readJul 29, 2019


St Illtud and his stag at St Fagan’s

Sermon on the Sixth Sunday after Trinity

St Fagan’s Church, Aberdare

Genesis 18. 20–32; Psalm 138; Colossians 2. 6–19; St Luke 11. 1–13

Where do you stand when you say your prayers?

+ In nomine

Our Gospel passage this morning is one of those biblical passages that always gives me goose bumps when I hear it.

St Luke the Evangelist, writing his Gospel, we think, in the city of Antioch, gathers together the stories, the sayings, the important things he has heard about Jesus’s life and teachings. And he includes the passage we’ve read today, when Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, and to pray what we now know as the Lord’s Prayer. “‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name.’”

And we know that, even then, as Luke recorded them, these words were not just story, a sort of history of what Jesus said. In those early, first century Christian communities, already dispersed across the Mediterranean and the near East, almost two thousand years ago, those words, the words of the Lord’s Prayer, were on those early Christians’ lips and on their hearts.

In upper rooms in Jerusalem, amid the cosmopolitan bustle of Antioch’s marketplaces, in the underground churches beginning to meet in Rome, these words, the words of the Lord’s Prayer, were important to people — hopefully, fearfully, secretly, in the company of friends, or hidden away from enemies and persecutors, these words were uttered and known and loved and meant.

And so it has been even since, across the sea of centuries — in dozens of languages, in thousands of places, by millions of people, these simple words addressed to our Father in heaven have been whispered and sung and shouted and adored.

Between St Luke writing those words in Antioch all those years ago and us reading them today — between St Luke’s church in Antioch praying those words at their Communion service all those years ago and us praying them at our Mass today — between us there is an unbroken line of faithful, doubting, confident, bewildered Christians, like you and me, who have known the same words, who have used them as one of their deepest ways of holding themselves before God in prayer.

And so when we say those words of the Lord’s Prayer later this morning, we know that we stand in the footsteps of all those who have gone before us — our “Our Father” echoes across time and eternity with theirs. With them we stand.

Where do you stand when you say your prayers?

I think that I was first taught to say the Lord’s Prayer in Welsh, by my grandmother, on Anglesey in north Wales. She and my grandfather would take me and my sister to chapel each Sunday, and I’d sit right next to her in the pew.

In the Welsh translation of the Lord’s Prayer, that line which in English is “and lead us not into temptation”is “ac nac arwain ni brofedigaeth”– slightly old-fashioned Welsh, that almost translates as “and lead us not into grief and mourning”– which, in turn, is quite close to the translation that we have of Luke’s words this morning — “and do not bring us to the time of trial.”

And I remember, as a young child, sitting there in chapel next to my grandmother, whom I loved very much, and praying “and lead me not into grief and mourning”– which I remember thinking, for me, meant “don’t let me grandmother and those close to me die” — “don’t make me have to grieve for those whom I love.”That was, very consciously, my prayer.

Thirty years on, I’m conscious that was a child’s prayer — the type of prayer that we’ve all prayed. “I’m afraid of something — please let it not happen. I want something very much — please let me have it. I love someone — please let them not be taken away.”

But life, natural life, with its beginnings and its endings, and its randomness and its casual cruelty and its blatant unfairness — life gets in the way. And our child-like prayers seem unheard and unheeded. And, as adults, we realize that our prayers need to come from somewhere else, that we need to be standing somewhere else for our prayers to be true to our joys and our griefs and our sufferings.

St Paul, writing to the Colossians, invites them, invites us, to stand in, to pray from, another place. “See to it,” says Paul in our reading today“that no one takes you captive through philosophy or empty deceit… For in Christ the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fulness in him… When you were dead in trespasses… God made you alive together with Christ.”

Confidence and courage, faith and hope, says Paul, come from that sure knowledge that we, all of us, are precious; that we, all of us, have in our depths something of God in us; confidence and courage, faith and hope, come from that sure knowledge that we are loved and that we can love. So many things are only a shadow of what is to come, says Paul, “but the substance” — the substance in which we share– “the substance belongs to Christ.”

If we stand in that place of mature faith and hope when we pray, our prayers become less about wanting and needing and possessing. They become more about the simple act of being in Communion with, sunbathing in, God’s love, Christ’s substance, the very source of our courage and confidence, the very depth of our faith and hope.

St David and his dove at St Fagan’s

Where do you stand when you say your prayers?

Take that question literally. Where do you stand when you say your prayers? Day by day, morning by morning or evening by evening, do you have a place where you go and say your prayers? Do you have a place where praying feels familiar and comfortable to you. Do you have a place where your anxieties are left behind, and you can be still and confident in Christ?

It doesn’t need to be an exotic or a luxurious place. It can be an armchair, a bench in the garden, a corner of the utility room.

But, if you don’t have one, let me urge you to find one this week, this summer. A place where you might spend a few moments, five or ten minutes each day, in God’s presence in prayer.

Use the time to be still — to re-read the past Sunday’s Gospel, or to place on you heart those who are dear to you by name, or to hold before God those things that are weighing on you, or to give thanks for those things are giving you joy, or to do no more than pray slowly the words of the Lord’s Prayer. Five or ten minutes each day to stand, or sit, or lie down, or kneel, in the stillness of God’s company, as God’s people have always done across the centuries, in the power and grace and joy of the risen Christ.

This week, this summer, where will you stand when you say your prayers?



Siôn B. E. Rhys Evans

Priest, Diocesan Secretary | Offeiriad, Ysgrifennydd Esgobaethol | Duc in altum