Prayer – mysteriously essential

9 09 2013

There is something ultimately mysterious about prayer.  The Bible makes huge promises about the benefits and the effectiveness of prayer.  “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:6–7).  “If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”  (John 14:14).  On the other hand we all struggle with the contradictions and sometimes sheer pain of unanswered prayer (brilliantly explored in Pete Greig’s semi-autobiographical book God On Mute).

Prayer maybe mysterious but it is also essential.  Somehow it really does make a difference.  As Archbishop William Temple famously put it, “when I pray, coincidences happen, when I don’t pray, they don’t happen.”  He did not say this lightly.  Before becoming Archbishop he was an Oxford academic, and as Archbishop he had to deal with the ethical issues of the war against Nazi Germany and spoke into the social and political debate about how to build the post-war society.

At the heart of prayer is the Lord’s Prayer which asks for God’s kingdom to come and his will to be done on earth as in heaven.  Whenever we see poverty, violence, injustice, greed, selfishness and ignorance of God, it is obvious that he is not reigning in Christians is not only to do what we can to change things but also, and even more importantly, to ask God to intervene.  I have never forgotten meeting some Burmese Christians when the military regime there was at its worst.  We asked  what we could do to help.  They asked us to provide for the needs of their refugees in any way we could, to join in any kind of protest on their behalf, but above all – and they stressed that they thought that this was far and away the most important thing – we should pray.

For the third year running we are going to recommence our church programmes after the summer break with 24 hours of unbroken prayer.  By committing ourselves to this chain of prayer we are demonstrating to God that we take seriously the words of Jesus that “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).  We are also doing our part in the coming of God’s kingdom by praying for his will to be done in our churches and in our neighbourhood.

At the heart of the mission Jesus gave us is helping and inviting others to connect with God.  Three years ago our Alpha course had almost ground to a standstill.  People outside the church simply weren’t coming.  After the first Prayer 24 weekend in 2011 we saw an increase in newcomers to the course.  The 2012 course which followed the second Prayer 24 brought one new member into the church and since then we have seen many of her family come too.  Coincidence?  Seems to me it has something to do with prayer.

Best wishes




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