Why is everyone hungry for more? “More, more,” they say, “More, more.” I have God’s more-than-enough, more joy in one ordinary day than they get in all their shopping sprees. At day’s end I’m ready for sound sleep, for you, God, have put my life back together.
(Psalm 4:6-8 the Message)
In the western world for generations, life expectancy has increased alongside an ever increasing economy and rising standard of living for more and more people. There could be no end to it! But there was! Suddenly we are pulled up by the stark question – In what do we put our trust? As General Assembly Moderator, the only message from God I felt compelled to share was “COME BACK TO MY SON!” It is now we need to hear it! It is now we need to believe it! My trust is in our Lord Jesus.
A friend from Haiti visiting the UK said, “You can stop praying because you believe He is a God only for the poor, or because He does not answer your prayers, or because we no longer notice what comes from God, or that God is with us.” More telling was when he also said – “If you stop praying you wouldn’t even notice the difference for a year. If we in Haiti stop praying, we’d notice the difference within the hour!” But do we really believe in God so close to us, so involved in our lives, so loving us that God wants the best for us, and God who provides for all our needs? If we are not praying it suggests we don’t!
Paul wrote to his friends “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the centre of your life.” (Philippians 4:6-7 from The Message)
My mother couldn’t understand why people who worry don’t pray, and know everything is in God’s safe hands. But then neither could she understand why people who pray still worry! For her, prayer was finding the peace that only God can give, to live through life’s troubles and find life in all its fullness. For me, prayer is not listing things to thank God for, or to ask for God’s help. Prayer is knowing God so close, that I can sense God’s love, hear God’s Word and see God in all around me. It is coming into God’s purpose for my life and those I pray for.
In one of my churches we ordained an elder into prayer ministry. She was too frail to do practical ministries, but her prayer-life was powerful. In another, a retired minister, severely disabled taught us how to pray, gave us the confidence to pray with each other, and pray together as a church. He organised us into prayer triplets, prayer chains, overnight prayer meetings, and sent us out in pairs to prayer-walk the community. This was followed by a great harvest of Fruits in the Church. When we had to lose our church building, over 70 people came together every week seeking God, and God’s way forward. Now is such a time for us all.
For the theologian Karl Barth, prayer was even more, as he wrote, “To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.” This reminds me of experiences all over the world, in some of the most dangerous places, where prayer has made more than a difference – the overthrow of corrupt governments, the ending of apartheid and the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the terror of drug gangs and the terrible consequences of poverty across whole countries. Prayer will bring down the powerful and raise up the humble. Prayer will destroy the works of the evil one. This day, God is giving you this amazing tool for New Life. Don’t think about “new normal” and what Church is going to be like after Covid-19 until you have prayed, and prayed and prayed – praying individually and as families and churches – go then and be part of the uprising that is happening!
“When each step is slow and painful, hearts are crushed, all joy is gone,
Jesus, join us on the journey, match each step and walk as one.
Gentle carer, journey sharer, be our friend when life goes wrong,
be our friend when we have none.
When our story’s dark and tragic, harsh confusion seems to reign,
Jesus, come with your re-framing, start our story off again.
Failure fighter, hope igniter, set our minds and hearts aflame,
resurrect us, in your name.
When we risk your living presence, reaching home, invite you in,
Jesus, be the bread that’s broken, for us be our everything.
Risen Saviour, now, forever, guide, protect through thick and thin,
be our closest friend and kin.”
Emmaus Communion by John Campbell
as a hymn – tune: ‘Guide me, 0 Thou great Jehovah’
Rev Kevin Watson, Yorkshire Synod Moderator