the trouble with templates


Isn’t it time we broke out of fixed understandings of what it means to spend time with God?

Or perhaps, should I say, embrace a more diverse understanding?

Our lives are peppered with both similarity and difference – each of us is unique in makeup, yet so often we try and work to the same template. Sometimes these templates of prayer and of study are very helpful to us, and well worth exploring.

But for some, who learn and think differently, the struggle to conform to these templates does not free them to develop an awareness of God in their lives – rather, it does the opposite. Trying to impose these fixed systems in their entirety can highlight a fundamental incompatibility. Our brains are wired too differently; the same model of prayer or spiritual practice will not work for everyone, however we may wish it might.

This does not have to be a problem. There are other operating systems. There are those which take what is helpful to an individual and apply it, less like a system and more like a fitting; measuring the individual for what they need. This is not to say we should dismiss community or group wisdom, just that we need to allow for diversity amid our unity – to recognise that we each respond in our own ways to certain media and stimuli.

We draw from our diverse experiences and use them to structure our own practice – not in a rigid way but at an organic level – exploring, developing, growing.

Faith is deeper than service requirements. The potential for growth and depth is immense. But if we simply impose an operating system without thought and care, we do not always flourish.

The trouble begins when we fixate on models of spirituality more than we focus on the God we are trying to find. These models can be very helpful tools – but that’s just what they are – tools. If someone uses a different toolkit each day to draw closer to God, should we really be picking over it, questioning its relevance and usefulness, instead of celebrating the fact they too are seeking a deeper relationship with Christ?

What do you think? What tools do you use, in your prayer life, to help you communicate with and learn about God? Do you ever feel anxious that you don’t fit someone else’s template?

8 thoughts on “the trouble with templates

  1. windinmywheels says:

    Great post, Lucy, as ever. Wonderfully apposite reference to “operating systems” – all of which are encompassed by the “anointed-ness” that is the very meaning of “Christ”. Jesus of Nazareth would, I believe, applaud celebration of human diversity. Thank you. I’ll look out for others’ reflections on your post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. suesconsideredtrifles says:

    I’ve just plucked up courage to join the intercessions rota. It’s my ‘first’ time tomorrow and I’ll be using a template from a liturgy with some additions. (I had two goes way back, one as part of a team and one on my own. I was not happy to continue at that time.) So this is a timely post. With practice I may become more creative. Sue

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lucy Mills says:

      Hope it goes well, Sue. I often use and adapt something in these scenarios – liturgy can create a wonderful sense of ‘pausing’ and ‘gathering’. But I’ve also had a complete melee when I brought along a ‘Body of Christ’ cardboard cutout and got everyone to bring a photo of themselves to stick on so we could all pray for each other in a visual way. It was good, and family friendly, but I wouldn’t do it every time 🙂 I think it’s about finding what works best – both for you and the group of people you are ‘leading’ in prayer. Practice is a good word for that!

      Liked by 1 person

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