I find praying such a battle.
It’s so easy to not pray, feel guilty about not praying, and then not pray some more! I think my biggest problem, however, is that I forget who I’m praying to (and with), and what it’s for.
I discovered this quote from a book called ‘Connected – Living in the light of the Trinity’ by Sam Allberry and it’s brilliant! 'He (God the Father) is not the unknowable 'other', still less just a finger wagging authority figure, but our Father, 'By him we cry, Abba, Father.'’ The Spirit himself testifies with our Spirit that we are God's children' (Romans 8:15,16).Two things are mentioned here
* The Spirit moves us to call out to God as our Father.
* The Spirit bears witness to us that we are God's children.
I suspect this is one activity, not two. As we call God Father, the Spirit testifies to our inner being that we are indeed God's children. The act of praying reminds us that we are on praying terms with God our Father.
If this is right, then prayer itself is a means of assurance. As we avail ourselves of the privilege of addressing God as Father, we are becoming more deeply conscious of the utter appropriateness of doing so as his adopted children. Prayer is essentially evangelical: as we pray we are re-enacting the gospel to ourselves.'
I love that final paragraph! It’s such an encouragement. What a great motivation to pray!
11 years ago this month the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in New York were hit by two planes, flown by Islamic terrorists. The world changed that day. Since then, the past 11 years have witnessed a horrible succession of violence: the carnage of 7/7 in London, the wretched suicide bombings in so many countries, the riots in the UK (2011), the wars across the Middle East, and currently the slaughter in Syria. The world is in a battered state.
Our own society is in deep need. Britain is broken in so many ways. Our news bulletins carry so many tragedies, not least in the current news of the tragic shooting of the two policewomen, just a few weeks ago. The pastoral burden that every local church bears is a continual reminder to us that a tragically high number of our fellow citizens lead dysfunctional, damaged lives. And the on-going financial crisis bears down on all of this, adding yet more layers of anxiety to our already traumatic situation.
It is easy to think that we, as local Christians, can do nothing.
That is so wrong.
We CAN do something. We can pray. Not the polite few words that come to our lips in opening or in closing a church meeting. But prayer where we turn to God with our inner selves, and with real urgency ask God for help. We need to cast ourselves and our hurting world upon him with a renewed sense of our absolute dependence upon him.
Prayer is not something a Christian should do occasionally. It is something that we should be doing all the time. Prayer is the only link we have with God. It is the most vital thing that we can do in life. You would not get far in a human relationship without speaking to the one you love; you will not get far in any spiritual realm without speaking, either.
When we open our hearts to God in prayer, he hears us. He increases our faith, and our desire for more of him, and for the extension of his kingdom.
Don’t know what to pray? It is simple; ‘your kingdom come... into....’ whatever situation about which you are praying. You cannot pray for everything and everyone. For example, I’ve chosen to use the TV news bulletins as a prompt to pray for the families of servicemen and women when the News tells of more soldiers killed.
Our churches can be real spiritual powerhouses – more expectant in worship, more effective in witness, more able to be the salt and light of our society.
I expect many of us will have made time over the summer for some refreshment and relaxation with friends and family—an opportunity to recharge the batteries for the coming months. I hope you return fully replenished physically and spiritually and raring to go! Here are some new things that are happening this autumn at All Saints. James
On Sunday 16 September, we begin our new pattern of evening services which will collectively be renamed CORNERSTONE and will have a less formal flavour. Do come at 6pm for cakes and coffee before we begin at 6.30pm. In the first half of term, we have a series of sermons called Who do you think you are? looking at the ‘I am’ sayings of Jesus in John’s gospel.
ALL SAINTS AT PRAYER
We are going to be replacing InterConnect on the third Wednesday of each month with an hour’s meeting for prayer in the Tiger Lounge. Lots of prayer goes on at All Saints, but we haven’t really succeeded in creating an opportunity for us to pray together as a church body for our mission and ministry. This will start on Wednesday 19 September, 8-9pm. (First Priority will move in October to the third Wednesday (17th) from 12noon-1pm).
LEADERSHIP TRAINING COURSE
A new initiative, designed to provide rigorous, stretching and practical training in Christian leadership and ministry including theology, evangelism and rightly handling the Bible. It is intended to equip potential leaders for key areas of ministry and develop the lay leadership at All Saints. 11 people will start next week, with Adam and James overseeing and teaching. The Course will run for one year, and we pray it will continue with a new group in 2013, as it is an exciting and vital investment in the future ministry of All Saints.
NEW GOOD NEWS CLUB GROUP
From Sunday 16 September, the Good News Club will have a new group—Sparklers–which will be for youngsters who come with their families to the 11.15am service. The group will be run by Oli Taylor and Emma Hastings, our Ministry Trainees, but they would be glad of extra help. Further details to follow.
I am delighted to say that Ruth Ford has come forward to lead the Tiger Lunches catering team. She will take over from Su Skipp after Christmas and we are hugely grateful to Ruth for volunteering and to Su for her years of dedicated service.
Our new Ministry Trainee (Apprentice), Emma Hastings, joined us for the Shipwrecked Holiday Bible Club at the end of August and already has got to know a number of the fellowship.
Do go out of your way to make her welcome.
Sometimes, people recommend books, but they don’t live up to the expectations the other person has given you. Recently, Keith Ward suggested that I ought to read Pete Greig’s ‘God on Mute’. This one definitely was worth reading!
Peter Greig was involved in the setting up of the 24-7 prayer movement and so he is well placed to look at the topic of unanswered prayer. Why does God not give us what we ask him for? Drawing on the experience of his wife’s suffering and the consequences this had for his family, this is a moving and thoughtful book.
There are no easy solutions given as to why God does not answer prayers. It could be about sin, it could be about a bigger picture that God knows, but which we cannot see or it could be that we are not praying for the right thing.
Most movingly, he tells the story of Joseph Scriven who tragically lost his fiancée in a flood. He then fell in love again but his second fiancée also died tragically from an illness. His mother wrote him a letter about how concerned she was about these terrible losses and how he was coping. He replied with a poem that he had written, which has now become a great hymn:
What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh what peace we often forfeit!
O what needless pain we bear!
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.
Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of prayer?
Precious Saviour, still our refuge,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.
Why don’t we pray? There’s a question to induce guilt in most Christians! If you’re anything like me, you are plagued by a constant, nagging sense of failure in the praying department, and although you want to pray more, you never quite seem to manage it.
Just to make things worse, here’s a paraphrase from Calvin’s Institutes:
Not bothering to come to God (who is good and kind, and is delighted when we come to him) to ask him for help and bring our needs to him, is crazy! It’s like knowing that there is a treasure chest buried in your garden and not bothering to dig it up!
So prayer is something to treasure and enjoy…really?
If we think of it as an activity or routine, it’s not that appealing, but if we lift our focus from the activity to the one who we are praying to, then it becomes much more exciting!
‘Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!’ (Matthew 7:9-11)
Because Jesus died and rose for us, we are God’s children! He loves us, and loves to give good things to us. He wants us to come and speak to him because in speaking to him we exercise our dependence on him, and we learn what a generous, trustworthy God he is.
Prayer is not an activity to be done; it’s an expression of our faith and dependence in our Heavenly Father. It’s how we relate to God.
As BT's advertisements used to say, ‘It’s Good to Talk’. Whether nattering with old friends, or catching up with relatives - in our digital age, isn’t talking wonderful? And how extraordinary to think that God wants us to talk to him too - what a privilege!
Throughout the gospel accounts, Jesus is often found retreating somewhere quiet to spend time talking to his father in heaven. When he wrestled with the prospect of the crucifixion, he prayed, with the result that he was empowered and committed to trusting his father’s will (see Mark 14.32-42).
And praying not only reflects that we are in a trusting relationship with God, but the Bible teaches us that when we pray, God acts. Our prayers have an eternal impact - crumbs! That should encourage us to pray more!
So, let’s get praying! It’s a vital part of our life as a church family and we’re going to pray 24 hours a day, for a whole week in the Tiger Crypt: October 24th-30th.
Why the need for such a week in one venue, rather than at home alone? Well, the room will mean: no phones ringing, doorbells bing-bonging or children playing! There will be ideas of what to pray for around the room, so we’ll be united in our prayer topics for a week. And, it’s a great way for individuals, families and Connect Groups, to devote a chunk of time to be spent with our heavenly father, who delights in his children talking to him.
Look out for the sign up sheet, and let’s seize this opportunity, amid frenetic lives, to spend time talking to our wonderful father in heaven and being involved in eternal activities!