Mark Tully: [H]ow do you understand what you’re actually doing when you’re praying?
The Archbishop [Rowan Williams]: As a Christian, my understanding is that what I’m doing is allowing the life of Jesus to come alive in me with the Holy Spirit, which means that from the depth of my being as a believer there rises up a kind of welling-up of life and love directed towards that mysterious source of Jesus’ being, which we call God the Father. So when I pray I’m trying to make room for that. I’m not trying to fill up the space. I’m not trying to do something, but [I’m trying] almost to be carried on that ‘rising water’. The Four Quartets, [T. S.] Eliot’s Four Quartets: ‘the pool was filled with water out of [sunlight]’ (No 1 Burnt Norton). And that’s a beautiful image, and that sense of something rising up, but for that to happen you have to let go of a lot. You have to still your body and your imagination, and let something flower, let something happen, and your mind and your feelings sooner or later have to get out of the way. So prayer’s communion. It’s that allowing — as again, somebody said — the depth within, the depth outside to come together.
Mark Tully: How do you feel about intercessory prayer? Because yours is very much internal prayer in a way, isn’t it?
The Archbishop: There’s no huge difference really. There was a phrase I came across years ago by a great Church of England writer of the twentieth century who, writing to a friend, said, ‘I’m going to spend ten minutes just thinking about you and Jesus,’ and I thought that’s a brilliant definition of intercessory prayer. You don’t send in your list of requests. You don’t bombard God with your demands. You just hold the image, the sense of a person or situation in the presence of God, as if you want to let the one seep into the other, bring those two realities together in your mind and heart. And that’s very much how I find intercession works.
— Understanding Prayer, Something Understood (Air Date: 13 Sep 2009, 23:30), BBC Radio 4 (transcript source: The Archbishop on the relationship of poetry and prayer, The Archbishop of Canterbury) (via bookofprayer)