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Fr Ray Hemingray has shared his thought for today, Sunday 7th February 2021.

‘Comfort, Calories and Prayer’

None of us gets through life without needing some comfort at some time or another. In fact I have never seen a baby that didn’t need a comforter, whether a dummy, or a teddy or cloth animal or doll, or even just a favourite piece of cloth. But what about when we are adults?

I have to confess that occasionally, when I have had a bad day, when things have gone wrong, or if I am suffering from physical exertion, a voice in my head says, ‘I think I need a drink’. (Does that ring any bells with anyone else!) A glass of wine or a beer or whatever, can bring a bit of immediate comfort. But the dangers of drink are that for some people drink can become addictive. Too much alcohol can have adverse effects on, for example, the liver; and drinks usually contain a lot of calories that our bodies don’t need.

I am sure that no-one reading this reflection uses drugs, but some people do, to help them provide temporary comfort and escape from their troubles. And we are all aware of the problems of addiction.

Some people may seek comfort in food that they enjoy. The danger with comfort food, like chocolate, cake, biscuits, “naughty” pastries, etc., the things that we enjoy, is that we may find it difficult to resist more. Those of us of a certain age will remember in the 1980s the Beverley Sisters singing, “It’s illegal, it’s immoral or it makes you fat”. Comfort food tends to fall into the third category. There seems to be an unwritten law that any food we enjoy has too many calories that convert to an increasing waistline.

Retail therapy is another way of trying to forget one’s problems for a while, directing one’s energy into making a fuss of oneself by spending money on something that will bring pleasure, and thereby putting off having to face up to one’s problems. But there is the danger of spending too much and regretting it.

But there is another option for seeking comfort from life’s stresses – prayer. (I don’t mind if you say, ‘Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he’!) I was prompted to think about prayer as a subject for my reflection today by the words of a hymn.

In the Common Worship prayer book entitled ‘Daily Prayer’, the order of service for Evening Prayer during the Church’s season of Epiphany (which ended on 2nd February) contains this hymn (I have omitted the last verse, which is the same as the first):

O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness;
bow down before him, his glory proclaim;
with gold of obedience, and incense of lowliness
kneel and adore him: the Lord is his name.

Low at his feet lay thy burden of carefulness:
high on his heart he will bear it for thee,
comfort thy sorrows, and answer thy prayerfulness,
guiding thy steps as may best for thee be.

Fear not to enter his courts in the slenderness
of the poor wealth thou wouldst reckon as thine:
truth in its beauty, and love in its tenderness,
these are the offerings to lay on his shrine.

These, though we bring them in trembling and fearfulness,
he will accept for the name that is dear;
mornings of joy give for evenings of tearfulness,
trust for our trembling and hope for our fear.

The first verse reminds us of our relationship with God, to whom we owe reverence and obedience.

The second verse encourages us to share our worries with God and assures us that he will listen to our prayers and be our guide and comforter in our troubles.

The third verse tells us not to think for a minute that we are too unworthy to approach God and expect a response from him. If we come to him in truth (honesty) and love, that is all he expects from us.

The fourth verse encourages us to have faith that God can change our tears into joy and our fears into hope.

During the current lockdown, one of the comforts that most of us are missing is a good old-fashioned hug with close family members and friends, people who at the moment we are not allowed to meet. This is particularly hard for those who live alone.

But in fact we are never alone. There is always someone to talk to, someone who is always there to listen to our prayers and to offer us comfort and give us hope. We just need to have the courage to start the conversation – in prayer. And as a way of seeking comfort, the great thing about prayer is: it’s non-addictive, it doesn’t cost you anything, and it doesn’t make you fat!

“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.” (St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians, Ch 2, vv 16-17) Amen.

Fr. Ray