Prayer, as T.S.Eliot reminds us in The Four Quartets, ‘is more than an order of words, the conscious occupation of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying’. In churches and synagogues across the land we seem to be bombarded with a barrage of information, admonitions, readings, prayers, sermons. The readings are often too fast, and few clergy or rabbis are trained in the use of the voice or the microphone.
How to make space for the heart and the spirit? How to make space, as Quakers do, for silence? To what extent do the rituals and liturgy of organised religion reflect an interior reality?
The great scholar, P.D.Mehta, in his book The Heart of Religion, wrote, ’In the hands of the great ceremonialists, these rituals produced profound psychological effects. Trained to meditate, the attention of the skilled celebrant was wholly concentrated on the psycho-spiritual significance of the ritual.’
And so it is not surprising that so many turn away from our churches and synagogues. It is not that we do not require words – it is that words require space.