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August 2017

For the first time in a couple of years I am growing sweet peas, and the first ones have just come out as I write. For me, this is always a sign—not that summer is here, for it has been here for a while—but that we’ve reached the apex of summer.
My sweet peas are always late arrivals, because I always plant them late, but they always get there eventually. I plant them, and then, a few days later, I’ll get around to building a frame around them. Of course, that’s the wrong way around, and it means they straggle limply along the ground because the stakes are in the wrong place. I have to nudge and poke them until they start to wrap around the string. I forget to weed and water them and never get around to feeding them either. Then I’ll have a sudden flurry of interest and spend a frenzied half an hour or so trying to sort them out, pull out the weeds that are choking them, and give then some water.
This benign neglect goes on for a couple of months, until, suddenly, somehow, they’ve pulled themselves up, and they start flowering. Then I get a bit fanatical. At all hours you’ll find me prowling around, secateurs in hand, reaping the fruits of my labour, and desperately, desperately cutting out any of those slim, secretive pea-pods that have started to form in the shady centre of the plants that I might have missed. For the one thing everybody knows about sweet peas is that the more you cut them the more you’ll get.
Sweet peas are a good metaphor, I think, for my prayer life. First of all, they are very forgiving plants. You can’t ignore them completely, but the effort for reward ratio is a pretty good one. You do need to give them a bit of support—but once you’ve done that they’ll grow. Of course, if you put the effort in, they’ll reward it. You can train them, fertilise them, pinch out the second bud to get more flowers (I did this once and it was worth it), but you don’t have to.
And they surprise you. Suddenly, there they are—and the race is on to cut the flowers, shove them in a vase and enjoy the beautiful scents and colours for a day or two, before they fade. But keep on doing it, because tomorrow there will be more, and more the next day too. The worst you can do now is stop enjoying them, stop cutting them, stop replenishing your vase with the heady scent and beautiful colours.
This is prayer. It doesn’t just happen, it needs a bit of work. Some put in a lot of effort, but some don’t, or can’t. Either way, the rewards are good, beautiful, and both transient and long-lasting. A good prayer life is a cut and come again type of flower.
So enjoy the sweet peas where you find them. Don’t hoard them. Cut them, shove them in a vase, keep them coming. And whilst you do that think about prayer—my prayer is that your prayer life will feed your soul as well as a bowl of freshly cut sweet peas.

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Holy Trinity, Prestwood is an Inclusive Church. We are part of the Church of England.
We are in the Oxford diocese and the Wendover Deanery.

The Parochial Church Council of the Ecclesiastical Parish of Holy Trinity, Prestwood is a registered charity, no. 1129233.

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