When I read through the gospels something that strikes me is the amount of time Jesus spent in the outdoors. He taught in the synagogues and had dinner in people’s homes, yes, but he spent far more time teaching, healing, eating and praying on hillsides and beaches, in town centres and beside wells.
Obviously there is a slight difference in climate in Israel to us here in Scotland. But I wonder if there is still something here to inspire us? I really believe that one of the main reasons Jesus spent so much time outside rather than in buildings, was that he wanted to remove every barrier he possibly could so that people felt welcomed to come and meet with him. He wanted to be accessible by anyone and everyone.
One of the primary ways we meet with God is in prayer. But do we make it accessible to anyone and everyone?
Are the current restrictions, the things we see as obstacles, actually an invitation for us to try new things and take prayer outside into town centres, parks, gardens, street corners, removing every barrier we possibly can so that our communities around us feel welcomed to come and meet with Jesus?
What could it look like this spring, summer and autumn for us as the Church across Scotland to take prayer outdoors?
Many have tried this already and seen their local communities hugely blessed by it.
Last summer we spoke with Vicky Allen from Dunbar whose church Discovery has facilitated a labyrinth in their local park two Advents in a row, providing a place of reflection for the local community using simple materials like rocks and twigs and wood gathered from the beach. They also facilitated a labyrinth in the garden of one of the local churches during the summer as part of a wider sort of holiday club for families. You can watch our fun interview with Vicky here.
Last spring Blantyre Old Parish Church opened up their church garden to the local community and provided varied, changing reflective “prayer stops” to help people pray and process without the need to touch anything, making it completely safe and stress free to engage with.
Also last summer, Re:Hope Westend hung chalkboards on the pavement side of the iron fence by their building, inviting those passing by to write up their prayers.
This Easter, St Mary’s Dalkeith put out various Easter related prayer stations across several weeks for those passing by on a walk through the park, taking them through the Easter story and giving opportunity for those who wished to ask forgiveness and to reflect on how what Jesus did can transform us and the way we live, affecting the world around us for good.
There are many ideas out there – it just takes a little creative thinking, responding to the inspiration of Holy Spirit and then some physical work! And it can be a beautiful way of combining prayer and mission, like Jesus so often did!
Feel free to contact us for ideas and inspiration at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are also hosting two online information times – 27 April 10.30am and 29 April 8pm – for those wanting to hear more ideas around how to engage with this year’s Thy Kingdom Come and one of the things we will be talking about is outdoor prayer spaces. Feel free to come along to that even if you are not planning on getting involved with Thy Kingdom Come. You can register for either of these times here.
Also check out the 24-7 Prayer website for more outdoor prayer ideas!