When I think of the word ‘overture’ I am drawn to the musical meaning first. An overture is an introduction, often to an opera, and it is common to hear in it some of the main musical themes and melodies which will appear in full later. During the 19th century in particular this changed as composers wrote short descriptive pieces (eg Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture) telling a story. These were then used in orchestral concerts as an opening piece, lighter in intensity, before moving on to the more complex concerto and/or symphony. The word is also used to refer to the first approaches which are made in establishing relationships or opening business negotiations.
One of the important aspects of prayer works very much like an overture. Apparently Martin Luther once commented that he started the day with two hours of prayer, and he was often so busy he couldn’t get by without three hours of prayer! The more we need to do, the more we need to prayer.
The overture sets the scene; establishes the mood. It gives structure to what is to follow. It prepares the ear of the audience for the tale and the moods which they will encounter. Luther’s daily overture undoubtedly put him more in tune with God, but more importantly it prepared him for all he had to do. Perhaps it clarified his purposes, established his priorities, prepared him for the possible consequences. Prayer can do all those things for us too if we will use it that way.
But there is one more thing which overture prayer does. A successful journey requires that we are clear where we are starting from – and what our destination is. Prayer gives us the opportunity to be grounded in Christ and know that wherever today may take us it is to him that we return.