Florence Allshorn grew up as an orphan and was active at her cathedral in Sheffield, England. She became a missionary to Uganda in the 1920s, and after a two year struggle with tuberculosis, was invited back to England to train new missionaries at the Church Missionary Society, later founding the retreat center called St. Julian Community.
She said that “the purpose of prayer is to know God. Our needs come second.” I agree. Prayer connects us deeply to God. It is our primary way to know God. It seems right that the purpose of prayer is to know God.
Yet her statement also seems absurd. Can we really put our needs second? In a time in which we need so much—a way forward, a vaccine, an economic and educational plan that is safe, a decrease in the spread of the virus—it’s hard not to first bring our many needs to God in prayer. If we can’t take all our burdens to God, then where can we go? We need to bring our needs to God.
I think our path to knowing God instead, is through the work of bringing our worries and cares to God in prayer. When we bring our needs to God, our prayers help us to know that God is One who listens, One who carries our burdens, One who walks with us along the rocky path.
How would you answer the question: what is the purpose of prayer?
Let us pray:
We bless you that we were made to love,
As the stars were made to shine.
Grant that such love may never die within us,
But being daily kindled in our souls,
May burn in our hearts
And forever renew our whole being
This we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
—Florence Allshorn, 1887–1950
Tomorrow, we continue a 9 week study on the Lord’s prayer: online Wednesdays at 9 a.m. We hope you will join us.