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“Clouds And Glory: Prayers for the Church Year” – David Adam

St Mary's Holy Island East Window

St Mary’s Holy Island East Window

From the Introduction


In the parish church on Holy Island the east window depicts the Ascension. Almost at the apex of this window is a cloud and above that the sun. Because the disciples are below the cloud I often wonder if they are aware of the glory beyond. I ask you, ‘Are you aware of the glory that pervades all things?’…


I seek to believe in the presence and love of God even though a cloud hides him from my sight. Time and time again I turn to the prayer from the Hebrides that says, ‘Though the dawn breaks cheerless on this isle today, my spirit walks in a path of light.’ I seek to know that both are real, the cloud and the glory: cloud, mist, misfortune, illness and darkness are all ever so real and there is no escaping them in this world; but there in the darkness is the Divine Presence. Even in our doubt, he never leaves or forsakes me.


When I lived on the North Yorkshire moors, I discovered what to do when the low cloud descended and made everything dull and grey – move from where you are! No, I do not recommend running away, only a change of perspective. I used to take the car up onto a moorland ridge road, no distance from home, for the tops of the moors were sticking out of the cloud and into the sunshine. If the days had been long and dreary, this often really felt like breaking through into glory…


Some people try to do the same with what they call ‘positive thinking’. I am sure many benefit from this, and positive thinking is a help, but sometimes it is just positively stupid because it does not face the facts of what is really happening. Positive thinking is often a pretend world and not truly dealing with what is around us. If life is to be balanced, we need to face the whole of reality; and that involves cloud as well as glory.


Intercession is not positive thinking, it is facing the real situation in the presence and power of God. It is the attempt to hold the deepest of realities together, to pierce the obvious clouds to see the hidden presence; to get a glimpse of the glory, that we might have strength to walk in the darkness…


I approach God carrying people in my heart and my prayers; I seek to discover that they are already in the heart of God and on their way to glory. I seek to hold on to the two realities; amidst the troubles and darkness of this world, we are all encircled and enclosed in the light, love and presence of our God. Learn to walk in the light, to lead others and uplift others into that light, that you may know the power and the glory of our God.


I believe that one  of the best preparations for Sunday worship is to use the readings for the coming Sunday throughout the week as an inspiration for prayer and intercession. As a young man, I used to use the same Collect, Epistle and Gospel every day from the Sunday through to the Saturday. By the Saturday I often knew the readings reasonably well and began to grasp their content – but there was a new set on the Sunday. I feel now that I had somehow got this the wrong way round: if we used the same readings from Monday to Sunday, when we came together on the Sunday how greatly our worship would be enriched. A wonderful preparation for Sunday is to pray every day of the week before the Sunday. No wonder worship in church is impoverished if we are not praying daily. If possible, use the readings set for the Sunday ahead to inspire and direct your prayers, then when we come together in worship it will be full of depth and meaning.


I would imagine you all know the intercessory prayers for the three church years written by David Adam? Many of you will have your own well-thumbed copies. We have just begun again on Advent Sunday with Year A and Clouds of Glory. S0me of you (all right, confession time, this group includes me) rarely get around to reading the introductions to books – we just leap in. I must have had my own copy of this book (published first in 1998) for over ten years but have only just been nudged to read the introduction, which I think very good. I hope you do too.

‘Living In Two Kingdoms’: David Adam

David Adam 001The Valley of Delight

One of the desires of the Celtic monks was to ‘find the place of their resurrection‘. This was a place where they would fulfil their vocation and serve God faithfully until their death. Perhaps for some this call came when they found life was being lived on a lower level than they wanted or when all had become routine rather than love. I believe the place of resurrection they were hunting out was not a place to die in but instead was a place to live their life to the full, a place to extend themselves and a place where they could be aware of the love and presence of God.

There is no doubt that they could have discovered this place anywhere; it was available to them wherever they were. But in their search there is a suggestion that there is a unique place for them not only in heaven but also on earth. There is the suggestion that we are all created for a purpose. We may feel that the world, which often appears to be far from God, hinders us in fulfilling our purpose. This may be true, for sin is often present in all the ways of the world. The world is far from perfect, as we know it. If we feel restricted or hindered we can at least turn towards God and that is the beginning of resurrection. We can affirm that we belong to God no matter what is going on around us…We are not only children of the king; we are already in his kingdom. In this way, no matter how bad the day or the events, we can in God make it a place of resurrection, a ‘lifting place’.

The Quakers who emigrated to America and Canada did not talk of ‘a place of resurrection’ but used a phrase in one of their hymns that I find deeply meaningful. They hoped to build a new life in a new world:

…This world can be a vale of sorrows, there is much in this world that is far from the loving rule of God, but like pioneers we are able to seek to usher in the kingdom of God. In God and in forwarding his kingdom we seek to transform wherever we can the vale of sorrows into the valley of delight. We are to delight in God’s world and his presence within it and to encourage others to do the same. This will often call for the gift of simplicity, the willingness not to dominate or possess. It will call us to reveal the glorious freedom that belongs to the children of God. We are not bound by the fates, and not even by death. We can show in our lives that ‘death is conquered; we are free: Christ has won the victory ‘. In the words of St Augustine we can show that ‘we are resurrection people and Alleluia is our song.’…

There is something wonderful about people who are at rest in what they are doing, people who have let go of tension and are at home in the world. This rest is a gift from God….To know God is to love him and to enjoy being with him. When we find prayer boring or worship dull, we must remember the Almighty God can neither be boring nor dull. If we cannot be bothered to pray it is because we have lost a vital relationship with God or have not yet made it. The problem is not with God but with ourselves…Each day make a homecoming and return to your God. This turning may begin with a confession of sin and penitence. It may be that you have wandered so far that you are not sure where to turn. Know that as soon as you turn your Father comes to meet you...

You do not have to imagine the Presence any more than you have to imagine the air about you. Know you are in God’s presence, in his love and in his peace. Do not let other things take this away from you. Give your love to God and let him pour his love into your heart. ‘Rejoice in the Lord’…

You should be able to delight in God and the kingdom. This is beyond price…Promise you will spend some time each day delighting in the Presence and enjoying being a citizen of heaven.

This extract is taken from the last chapter of my favourite book by David Adam, published in 2007 but still in print. SPCK say:

“As a youngster,” writes David Adam, “I always wanted to know more. I liked to climb the next hill and look around the next corner. My mother said I wanted to see the ‘back of beyond’. I was never quite sure what she meant but I was often aware of an otherness in the midst of what was plainly in view.”

Both visionary and engagingly down-to-earth, Living in Two Kingdoms helps us recognize that the visible world of matter and the invisible world of spirit are not two worlds but one. We can be sure that whatever harsh reality we may have to face from time to time, the true reality is that we are never on our own. Because here and now – whatever it may feel like, we are truly part of the kingdom of God!

“Occasions for Alleluia”: David Adam


After the hurly-burly of General Synod (or, for our Episcopalian friends, General Convention), I offer you the perfect antidote: a dose of Celtic spirituality, under the familiar and wise guiding hand of the celebrated David Adam.

The Reverend David Adam, now in his late seventies, has been a lifelong priest in the Church of England. The volume of his published work vies with that of Agatha Christie, and much is still in print. (Anyone asked to lead intercessions would do well to begin with his three ‘Glory‘ books).  His appeal is much wider than simply to Anglicans – people from all Christian denominations as well as spiritual searchers as a whole are drawn to the deceptive simplicity of Celtic prayer and meditation.

Deceptively simple‘ because, though the poems look as simple as nursery rhymes, they in fact have more in common with haiku. As Daniel Barenboim said of music, ‘it is the silence between the notes‘. Adam quotes a friend  saying to him about his use of the psalms and Celtic prayers: ‘You remind me of hitting a nail with a hammer. You cannot drive it home at once, but by regular repeated actions and love you arrive where you want to be’.

‘Occasions for Alleluia’ is structured round the prayer of St Augustine of Hippo:

We shall be Amen and Alleluia.
We shall rest and we shall see.
We shall see and we shall know.
We shall know and we shall love.
We shall love and we shall praise.
Behold our end, which is no end.

David Adam, like many writers, thinks in metaphors and images. He begins with the striking image of an archer’s bow (p.3). We are all so busy with the business of living that the bow becomes ever more tightly strung ‘and a bow that is always bent will snap, as people who are always tense tend to do’. This sounds positively Zen-like, but Eastern philosophy and religion have no monopoly on this kind of metaphor, in fact lessons about bows come from the 4th century Desert Fathers. Subsequent chapters cover resting in God, seeing with the eyes of the heart, knowing God, loving God and finding joy in life and God.

I read this book in a matter of hours. Yes, I will want to re-read it, and I am sure I will find more treasures with each reading. I love the eclectic choice of quotations – Saint-Exupéry’s ‘Le Petit Prince’ (one of my favourites), Wordsworth, C  S Lewis, Alexander Carmichael, Teilhard de Chardin, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Dostoevesky, Emily Dickinson….(I could go on).

If Jonathan Clatworthy is a hippogriff, then David Adam is the archetypal seer and hermit living in a cave on top of a mountain. He continues to act as a spiritual director, and it is easy to see why. People are very drawn to him from his writing and there is a hint that he has discovered the secrets of the universe. Hindus believe in the spiritual value of darshan, or being in the physical presence of someone holy. But, while not a recluse, he is not known for appearing at festivals or book-signing tours. He values his privacy and we value it on his behalf for what it allows him to be and do.

The secret that he has discovered, of course, is hidden in plain sight. He concludes:

We shall praise: Come each day into his presence with thanksgiving. Rejoice in God’s love and salvation. Rejoice that you are one with him: that he dwells in you and you in him. Rejoice in his Creation and in all the relationships you have with it. Each day give praise and thanks to God for something in your life or in the world, something new. Behold our end, which is no end, to celebrate life: to celebrate God and his love. Let all be ‘Amen and Alleluia’, until all of life is an occasion for alleluias.



“What the publisher says about the book:
In this captivating book, David Adam aims to help us recognize that there are moments in each day of our lives that are cause for thanksgiving, when we may pause and praise God. The author explores in turn our natural ability to rest, to see, to know, to love and to enjoy – first in relation to our surroundings, and then in relation to our Creator. By the end of the volume, his hope is that a deepening awareness of the glories of the world around us will lead us, time and again, to delight in uttering ‘Alleluia!’

Illustrated with ten original watercolours by Monica Capoferri.”

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