Paul Cudby, the vicar of St. Mary Magdalene, Tanworth in Arden, discovered that his neighbouring church primary school, Tanworth School, has a prayer garden and so he put together some thoughts and prayers based around the trees in the garden. He has kindly shared them with us to inspire others to do the same in Quiet Gardens in schools, or in any setting.
Paul is also the Bishop of Birmingham’s Adviser for New Religious Movements and specializes in Christian-Pagan interfaith relations. He is author of The Shaken Path: A Christian Priest’s Exploration of Modern Pagan Belief and Practice.
If you watch closely in the spring you will see that the ash tree is almost always the last tree to come into leaf. It is as if the ash tree has learned how to wait for exactly the right time, but until then she waits and she waits.
The ash tree is a good place to sit and pray when you are waiting for something to happen. She reminds us that sometimes God does things in his own time, and although we may have prayed a prayer asking God to do something for us, sometimes the answer God gives is, ‘Not yet my child. You must wait a little longer’. So the ash tree teaches us patience.
A prayer for patience
Lord Jesus, thank you for the ash tree and the way she teaches me about patience and waiting for the right time. You know that in my life I am waiting for something to happen. Please help me to be patient and learn to wait like the ash tree. Amen.
A Bible verse for patience
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12
Oak Tree : Wisdom
For as long as people in this country can remember, the oak tree has been a symbol of wisdom. Maybe that’s because he lives for hundreds of years and we know that people who are much older than us often seem to be much wiser than we are because they have experienced more of life. So the mighty oak tree is a good place to sit when you are trying to make sense of a difficult situation and you don’t know how to respond. He can be a reflection of God’s ancient wisdom; a wisdom that you can ask for when you need help.
A prayer for wisdom
Lord Jesus, thank you for the oak tree and the promise of wisdom as I grow older. But today I need to be wise because of what has happened. Please help me to think carefully about what to do. Please show me which older person to ask for advice and please help me to listen carefully. I would like to grow in wisdom Lord, so please be my teacher. Amen.
A Bible verse for wisdom
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5
The Hawthorn : Heartache
The prickly hawthorn, while perhaps seeming unfriendly, is known for her berries. (Now you must be very careful and never eat any berries in the wild unless an adult tells you it’s safe because some berries are very poisonous.) Hawberries are thought by some people to be very good if you have heart problems. That makes the hawthorn a very good place to pray when we are upset or in pain. Sometimes when something goes very badly wrong we talk about heartache or being broken-hearted, and so the hawthorn reminds us that God is always close to the brokenhearted.
A prayer when I am upset
Lord Jesus, today has not been a good day and now I feel very upset and I don’t know what to do. Thank you that the hawthorn tree reminds me how you are here with your arms around me when I am upset. Please help me with this situation and please comfort me and hug me on the inside. Amen.
A Bible verse for when I am upset
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
The Willow : Working
The willow tree is sometimes thought of as the first to arrive and the last to leave. That’s because he grows his leaves very early in the spring and holds on to them well into the autumn. As soon as he thinks there’s enough sun, out pops his leaves and he starts soaking up the rays and growing. And once all the other trees have given up and gone into their winter hibernation, he hangs on until the last moment, waiting for the final rays of autumn sunshine in case he can get just a little more growing time in before shedding his leaves. You could think of him as an example of hard work and how well it pays off since the willow can grow quickly and become an enormous and long-lived tree because he works so hard. He’s a good place to sit when you want to pray for help with some school work.
A prayer for help with work
Lord Jesus, thank you for the inspiration of the willow tree, and how he works so hard to grow, not resting until the autumn is truly finishing. Help me to find some enthusiasm to finish the work I’m doing. Help me to know that, in the long run, I will do better if I learn how to concentrate on the work I have to do today. Amen.
A Bible verse about work
Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense. Proverbs 12:11
The Little Horse Chestnut : Childhood
Someone planted a conker, and now she’s growing. Like you, she’s still quite young and quite small, and like you she will one day grow up to be strong. But for the time being we need to take care of her and not run into her, but let her have the space she needs to grow. She is someone who needs us to look after her, and so she is a good place to go and sit when we’re feeling very small and wishing we were more grown up.
A prayer for when we feel small
Lord Jesus, sometimes it’s hard being a child. Sometimes I want to grow up quickly. Help me to find joy in each day, knowing that you were also a child like me once, and that you valued your childhood. Please take care of me now while I’m small so that one day I can grow to be all that you created me to be. I may never be as big and strong as a horse chestnut, but help me to be myself and enjoy the process of growing up, rather than wishing it away. Amen.
Bible verse about being young
Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, if anyone does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child, he will never enter it.” Luke 18:16-17
The Beech Tree: Inspiration and Writing
Some say that Beech trees inspired the building of great cathedrals. We know, also, that their wood was once used in very thin slices on which people would write. He is therefore a very good place to sit to dream great dreams about the future, dreams like mighty cathedrals, while at the same time remembering that cathedrals are there to serve the people, and that as followers of Jesus we are also called to serve others. He is also a place where we can sit and ask for inspiration when we need to write about something but don’t know where to begin.
A prayer for dreams and inspiration
Lord Jesus, I’m not sure what I want to be when I grow up, but I would like to make a difference in the lives of others; to make their lives better. Help me to remember that you call all of your people to help those in need, so in my dreams about the future, guide me to how I can serve. Amen.
A Bible verse about inspiration
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8
A prayer for writing
Lord Jesus, I know that I have to write this piece of work, but I don’t know where to start. By your Holy Spirit, long ago you inspired people what to write on slice of beech wood, and so now I ask that you would help me to know where to start and inspire me as I begin writing. Amen.
A Bible verse about writing
Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart. Proverbs 3:3
The Bird Table : Creation
Birds remind us that we are all part of the one whole that God created. They are quite capable of feeding themselves, but they are very happy to receive the food that we give them, especially in the winter when food is scarce, and in the spring when they need extra food for their babies. They teach us that we have a responsibility towards the world of which we are a part, and that we have a choice about how we treat our planet.
A prayer for creation
Thank you Lord Jesus for the beautiful world you have given us to live in. Help us to take care of it and to live responsibly. Guide the choices we make about what we buy and what we eat, and help us to be mindful of the needs of the species who are residents of this planet and the ways we can help them. Amen
A Bible reading about creation
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom. Isaiah 40:28
The Prayer Tree
Sometimes when we say a prayer, we want to do something to mark its importance. In the Old Testament sometimes people would build something in a place where they had met with God. For us we can mark a particular prayer that we have prayed by tying a piece of coloured wool on to one of the branches of this tree. Gradually the tree will become a colourful reminder that we are a community of people who pray and trust God to hear us.
A Bible reading about prayer
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
With thanks to Paul Cudby, vicar of St. Mary Magdalene, Tanworth in Arden, and author of The Shaken Path: A Christian Priest’s Exploration of Modern Pagan Belief and Practice for sharing these Tree Prayers.