Prayer

I have a lot of time for Rev Giles Fraser: former marxist/athiest but not fundy and still lefty (the Dean of St Paul’s who resigned/was pushed out over the Occupy protests).

This really helped me this week:-

Prayer is about being where the light can get at you and helping you adjust to the truth of how things really are

Rowan Williams once brilliantly compared prayer to sunbathing. “When you’re lying on the beach something is happening, something that has nothing to do with how you feel or how hard you’re trying. You’re not going to get a better tan by screwing up your eyes and concentrating. You give the time, and that’s it. All you have to do is turn up. And then things change, at their own pace. You simply have to be there where the light can get at you.”

Too much prayer is seen as effort, as an attempt to make things different by some mental act of will. But the world does not revolve around you or me. And I can’t make it or other people dance to my tune by strenuously wishing things were other than they are. There is no magic involved. It’s not about mysteriously offering up some shopping list of proposals to an absent-minded deity who might not have thought about them had you not suggested them first. It’s not cosmic lobbying. The fundamental move is to give up trying to be in control.

……………………………………..

So, lots of fancy words, but does it work? Certainly not when it stays trapped in self-indulgent navel-gazing. And not when it is all about feeling sorry for oneself either. Of course there are tears – a form of prayer that the writers of the Bible described as lament. But all of this has to drop away too. Religious sunbathing is a great deal about adjusting our eyes to the nature of how things really are, adjusting to reality rather than constantly fighting it. ……

We are unaccustomed to the truth, and acclimatising one’s eyes takes time. But it is only the truth that will set us free. …… For a few moments at least, I have given up trying to conscript reality into my own furious plan of action. And I glimpse that all will be well.

I like that- I have been around many people: Christian, athiest, agnostic whose motivation has been ‘to conscript reality into my own furious plan of action.’ For a Methodist Minister, post Sept 1st, that is always tempting….

http://apps.facebook.com/theguardian/commentisfree/belief/2012/jul/27/religious-sunbathing-giving-up-control?fb_ref=type:read,user:cmO8p5NUNpnchxMp0aIvC-QxOlM&fb_source=other_multiline&fb_action_types=news.reads

I used this on Sunday

I don’t remember where I got this from, but I liked this:-

Lo I am with you always
to the close of the age…

But what shall I do?
Where shall I go?
I’m not even sure what you want me do!
I won’t know what to say…
Lo I am with you always
to the close of the age…

Don’t send me out there…
So much poverty, so much hunger, so much injustice.
I can’t possibly tackle all that…
Lo I am with you always
to the close of the age…

I’m not even sure what I think or feel or believe.
So much to think about.
So many alternatives, voices, ideas…
Lo I am with you always
to the close of the age…

What if people laugh?
What if they ignore me?
What if they think I’m mad?
Lo I am with you always
to the close of the age…

Use me after I’ve lived my life a bit
when I’ve made some money,
had some fun…
next week…
next year maybe?
Lo I am with you always
to the close of the age…

Silence

But… … … .
OK, here I am, send me….
Lo I am with you always
To the close of the age…

A prayer

This was on our church notices this week. Couple this with the Low video I had a few days back and you have almost my whole life philosophy.

A Prayer for this Church

Enable this church to do your will
Make it vulnerable so that it may speak with calm humility;

Make it outward looking that it may care deeply
Make it a community of peacemakers and bridge builders
In the midst of turbulence let the church make space for the hearing of your still small voice.

taken from www.thisischurch.com

As humans we seek warmth and safety. We can pattern church on this: ‘nothing changes here’ or in the case of large churches, whole lives and relationships that basically live inside the building. I like this prayer- it encourages me to turn outwards and bless, be humble and seek what God might be saying. It is a world away from the spiritual ghetto.

A take on the Lord’s Prayer

There are a lot of clauses to this quote, but I can go with it. I guess adding what he says to praying this today means that your prayers go from being religious duty to whole lifestyle or ‘Oh no: this is serious- help’.

‘When I say ‘hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come,’ I should be adding in my mind the words ‘in and through me,’ and so giving myself to God afresh to be, so far as I can be, the means to answering my own prayer’.

JI Packer (Tear Fund prayers for 03/03/11)

Oh heck, blast and darn it all.

I’m preaching in another church today, miles away from where I live. A lot of people go there on Sunday: more than I would normally see in a whole month round these parts.

They have told me they want me to speak on prayer. When I was was told this I felt like the guy who had been asked to play guitar in a band and when asked to play in D, said ‘What is ‘D’- is it some type of uniform, or a different room…no don’t tell me, it’s a song isn’t it? Hey what are these things on the guitar? When I play Guitar Hero there are buttons on the guitar: this one looks like it has 6 pieces of wire on- what are they?’

The minister told me to use Luke 11: The Lord’s Prayer. When I read it, re read it and read it some more it didn’t look much like the prayers that I pray. Here is a quote, a bit extreme perhaps:

‘I have come to the conclusion, not least from personal experience, that prayer is a way for Christians to be narcissistic with both a good conscience and public approval’.

http://theconnexion.net/wp/?p=9633#axzz1ECWG7aQi

I think I’m going to learn more this morning than most. But then I do not find assertions by preachers along the lines of ‘I gave them the Word’/ ‘Boy, did I preach today!’/ ‘These people needed to hear what I said’ etc etc very truthful at the best of times….. (that is partly why I rarely post sermons, but generally admire those who have the courage to do so).

 

Sunday Prayer

(seeing pictures like this make me want to smoke….he looks so cool….)

I have been meaning to include this for ages. It is just so, so good. If you can find the track listen to it!

I am also trying to learn it, which as it includes some barre chords is pretty major for me…

If it be your will
That I speak no more
And my voice be still
As it was before
I will speak no more
I shall abide until
I am spoken for


If it be your will
If it be your will
That a voice be true
From this broken hill
I will sing to you
From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will
To let me sing
From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will
To let me sing

If it be your will
If there is a choice
Let the rivers fill
Let the hills rejoice
Let your mercy spill
On all these burning hearts in hell
If it be your will
To make us well

And draw us near
And bind us tight
All your children here
In their rags of light
In our rags of light
All dressed to kill
And end this night
If it be your will

If it be your will.

Sunday, Sunday…

(I’ve tried, but there is nothing right with this picture…i think I must have entered irredeemably ‘grumpy old man’ territory…)

Lots of thoughts go around my head on Sunday. I never find it easy or glib to stand in front of others. Maybe that is why I sometimes overreact on here over people who seem to do or songs that seem to proclaim ‘all is well’.

I’m taking with me into this day a story I heard from a school with a faith basis of a child joining with special needs ; the sense from the Head that other parents were muttering along the lines of ‘I’m not sure about this: how will this affect the education of my child’. I’m also taking with me looking for another car (the last one is no more- being written off in a crash)- taking ages to find the ‘right’ car or the ‘safest’ one. I’m thinking of the temptation to buy more than I ‘need’ or buy the car that is safest for us-keeps our little family safe, but may actually be more dangerous to other pedestrians or other drivers.

These are unconscious (and conscious) middle class mores that we look consciously (and unconsciously) for God to baptise, either on a Sunday or with this kind of vague christianity that permeates areas like where I live.

As I preach and lead worship, I realise it is not ‘them’ I am preaching at, so much as ‘us’. I want to give hope, but also faithful questions and try and get at a ‘Jesus centred’ way. I react at a ‘gospel’ that seems purely ‘spiritual’ or another extreme that seems like social work with a bright thought attached. It is never easy….

Here is Psalm 15 (the Message) which has made me think a lot this week:-

God, who gets invited to dinner at your place?
   How do we get on your guest list? 

“Walk straight,
      act right,
         tell the truth. 

  “Don’t hurt your friend,
      don’t blame your neighbor;
         despise the despicable. 

  “Keep your word even when it costs you,
      make an honest living,
         never take a bribe.

   “You’ll never get
   blacklisted
   if you live like this.”

A prayer

I’m using this today: ‘cos I like it. And because I am increasingly becoming alienated from the consumerist way that we approach faith.

Why are we here?

We are not here to “do a bunk” from the world.
We are not here to “get in touch with our ‘inner selves’”.
We are not here to “recharge our batteries”.
And God help us if we are here to “make a deal” with God:
“Lord, if you do this for me, then I’ll do that for you.”

Why are we here?

We are here because the world is not right,
because we are not right,
and because we are angry about injustice,
sad about suffering,
and ashamed of ourselves.

Why are we here?

We are here because God so loves the world
that he is making it right,
turning it into a new creation;
and because God so loves us
that he is making us right.
turning us into a new people,
making us like Jesus:
faithful, truthful, peaceful, hopeful.
Paul writes: “For those who are in Christ, the whole universe is new”
(II Corinthians 5:17).

We are here because God, in his grace, has called us here.
What else could we do but come?
With gratitude and joy, in the Holy Spirit, let us worship God!

(HT:http://theconnexion.net/wp/?p=8293)

A prayer I used

I ripped this from somewhere and I can’t quite remember where but I used it yesterday.

I have never been one to ‘do’ written liturgy but as I get older and realise that there are so many words, words, words that can be used sometimes I need someone else’s words: my speech is verbose. I have to be bought to a full stop.

It’s a confession prayer. Again, as I get older I think that is the purest form: I am aware ‘through ignorance, weakness and my own deliberate fault’ I sell God and others short. I used to think that God was obsessed with petty sins- I now think he is more upset when I have failed to live openly and graciously. This prayer says that. Mea culpa

For all those occasions when we choose to get by so that we will not be challenged beyond familiar comforts, when we use money without thought so as not to take responsibility for its power, when we fill time so that we will not hear the call to intimacy,
forgive us, O God, and have mercy.

When we indulge in negativity so as not to acknowledge that we have choice,
when we listen continuously to others without sharing of ourselves,
when we pray from a distance so as not to risk involvement,
forgive us, O God, and have mercy.

When we opt for ordinariness so that we will not have to lead, when we acquiesce to fear so that we do not have to realise our potential, when we live focused on self so as to avoid commitment to community,
forgive us, O God, and have mercy.

When we do not deal with conflict so that we do not have to learn, when we are ungrateful or demanding and forget that all is gift, when we never relinquish control so as not to admit where we are broken,
forgive us, O God, and have mercy.

When we live as driven people and excuse our lack of peace, when we snap with anger because we did not attend to the body’s need for sleep, when we forget that our bodies are temples and not dumping grounds for waste,
forgive us, O God, and have mercy.

When we spread or listen to gossip so that we can manipulate to our advantage,
when we couldn’t be bothered getting involved but criticise those who do,
when we make no space for prayer yet have time for other things,
forgive us, O God, and have mercy. Amen.

Great (or great) expectations:2

prayer st petrov

Last week I was meeting with a couple of blokes who work for an organisation that is good, but came across to me like a man in a three piece suit from the 1970s (a bit dated, a bit sexist). At the end of the meeting something happened that I cannot knock and made me think a lot.

They prayed.

Nothing unusual about that. Christians pray (Although to go off topic, I am suprised in many meetings how even the most voluable or learned people become mute when prayer happens or doesn’t happen. Maybe one of the most significant things a minister can do (or anyone else for that matter) is to pray. Big prayers- there are no little ones- even at the most ‘mundane’ of meetings).

The way they prayed reminded me of something from my early years of being a Christian; they had expectation. Not the kind of expectation that prays ‘Lord- help this tiny chapel grow from 7 members to 1500 and by the way can I have a yacht?’, but the kind of expectation that stilled me and was breathtaking.

It was the awareness that they were in a relationship with a God who will act and is acting. And it wasn’t facile ‘positive prayer’ either…. I can’t fully define it, but in possibly the worst use of ‘that scene’ in ‘When Harry Met Sally’- when faced with the question what do you want? My answer would be ‘I’ll have what he is having.’

Some of the prayers that I read sound very pretty but they don’t seem to say much apart from amuse the audience. I love beauty and complexity in language……. but some of the expectation that those men had would be good too…..

John Wesley used to say ‘preach faith until you have it’. Wonder if I could pray with expectation until I have it?