From God's fullness we have all received, grace upon grace
“Playful prayer”

“Playful prayer”

Prayer is often seen as something to be taken seriously, that needs working at, and indeed it is and it does. After all, the motto of St Benedict was Orare est Laborare, Laborare est Orare – to pray is to work, to work is to pray.

But whoever said prayer has to be serious all the time? Prayer is the essence and expression of a relationship, and what sort of a meaningful relationship is always -well- Meaningful? After all, we’re talking about a relationship with the creator of the puffin and the platypus, and the caterer at the wedding in Cana. With the one who, like the father of the Prodigal Son, throws dignity to the winds and with robes flying runs to meet us whenever turn towards home.

When we take ourselves too seriously, we tend to become more like the Pharisees. Prayer is not something that is just ‘worthy’. Playful prayer – being light-hearted, spontaneous, simply enjoying God – helps us avoid ‘worthiness’ and ploddery (this may be a made-up word). To pray is to work, rest and play.

God and I have become
Like two giant fat people
Living in a tiny boat

We keep
Bumping into each other
And laughing.

“Two Giant Fat People”
by Hafiz

A game
Of hide-and-seek

God is
Cunningly concealed

Meister Eckhart is
At a loss

God deliberately
Clears his throat

from “Echoes of Eckhart”
by Richard Skinner

So how to play in prayer? It won’t do to be prescriptive, but here are some ideas.

  • Last month I wrote about occasionally trying out a different prayer method, asking ‘what if?’ and cultivating the spirit of experimentation.
  • Use your imagination. Trevor Dennis wrote a wonderful story featuring God as a woman playing the saxophone.
  • Use your body, dance, sing hymns at the top of your lungs in the shower.
  • Fly a kite.
  • Have a nice cup of tea and a sit down with your knitting for a proper chinwag with God.
  • Bask in a hammock in the sun.
  • Simply do anything you enjoy, and enjoy it in God’s company.

It’s August, the holiday season. An amen a day helps you work, rest and play.


This is one of a series of articles appearing in Exeter Cathedral’s monthly news, complementing the material I contributed to the “Explore Prayer” section of the Cathedral website. I hope you find them helpful.

One comment

  1. Here’s another poem by Hafiz that I love: “Tripping over Joy”

    What is the difference
    Between your experience of Existence
    And that of a saint?

    The saint knows
    That the spiritual path
    Is a sublime chess game with God

    And that the Beloved
    Has just made such a Fantastic Move

    That the saint is now continually
    Tripping over Joy
    And bursting out in Laughter
    And saying, “I Surrender!”

    Whereas, my dear,
    I am afraid you still think
    You have a thousand serious moves.

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