Spirit Sightings

July 24, 2016: Passion of Prayer

From Sandra Rooney

On July 1, across the UK and Europe, people were drawn together to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, one of the bloodiest of World War I, which began on July 1, 1916. More than a million men were killed or wounded, on all sides, during the five-month conflict. The British suffered nearly 60,000 casualties on the first day alone.

Throughout the day and across many countries, ceremonies were held. At 07:28 BST, a UK-wide two-minute silence marked the start of the battle. In the evening, thousands of people, including members of the Royal Family, attended a ceremony in France. The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry were among those present at the Thiepval Memorial, located close to the battlefields of the Somme. In the shadow of its imposing walls, with the names of 72,000 men who fought there, but were never found, royalty, heads of state, and actors paid tribute to what happened there with the words of those who lived it.

Also throughout the day, across the UK, “ghost Tommies” appeared in locations as distant as Chester, Glasgow, Newcastle, and Sheffield. The living memorial involved some 1,500 volunteers, men dressed as WWI soldiers. They appeared at shopping centres, train stations, high streets, and beaches. The volunteers, from all manner of professions, were aged between 17 and 52, reflecting the ages of the men who would have fought in the Somme.

The “ghost Tommies” didn’t speak, but each carried a card with the name of the soldier they represented, and his age, if known. All of 1,500 men represented died on that first day of fighting.

National Theatre head Rufus Norris and artist Jeremy Deller were behind the project, which Norris described as “a powerful way to remember the men who went off to fight 100 years ago.”

Explore… Luke 11:1–13

  • What might the disciples have expected when they asked Jesus to teach them how to pray?
  • What occasions bring you to prayer?
  • When do you find it most difficult to pray?
  • When have you found prayer to be most meaningful?
  • What form does prayer most often take for you?

Prayer links…

  • Listening God, hear our prayers, the spoken and unspoken, those uttered in times of great distress and almost forgotten in times of great joy, those whispered in the quiet of solitude or expressed on behalf of peoples everywhere. As we pray, may we be strengthened for the living of these days. Amen.

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