Day 5 - Friday

Congratulations on making it to the end of our week of prayer & fasting 2017.  Just so you know, our week of prayer & fasting 2018 will be w/b 25 June!

If you have been fasting through the week, remember to be gentle as you break fast.  It’s is tempting to sit down to a full plate of your favourite meal, but I would be quietly confident that you’ll regret it!  Your system needs some TLC coming out of a fast.  Yoghurt, soup, soft fruit – that sort of thing will make re-entry an altogether less traumatic affair.

I hope you have been encouraged in your own spiritual life as you have engaged with our Church’s week of prayer.  I hope too that the last few days have stimulated a renewed joy and passion in your own life of prayer (& perhaps now, fasting?).  I have been struck a number of times this week by the poise of prayer, and how often it straddles seemingly irreconcilable realities.  We come as children to a Father, full of joy, confidence and intimacy; yet simultaneously before the Lord of Glory, a Consuming Fire, with reverence and awe (Heb.12:28-29).  We eschew nonchalance yet embrace familiarity.  In prayer we work as we rest in Him; take initiative as we follow Him and serve Him even as we are served by Him.  We are caught up in the life of God: coming before the Father, in Christ, by the Spirit; the Spirit praying in us, while Christ prays for us.

We have stood on holy ground.  It makes you wonder why we don’t do it more often?  Why are we so reluctant to pray, and to pray with one another?  As this week draws to a close, for many of us there may be an opportunity to reflect on what has stopped us from sharing in this privilege.  For some, the reasons will be entirely legitimate.  But for others, fear or anxiety may have proven a barrier; or perhaps we’re just not sure why this has been such a big deal in the life of the Church.  It would be great if we could clear some of those issues up before our next Day of Prayer on 29th September.  We’d love to have you join us.

In the months that lie ahead, with our recruiting of a Youth Minister, Who Cares? and P:18 in the months ahead, Church-planting, and key decisions to be made that will shape the foreseeable future of our parishes, I suspect this week has played a far more significant part than any of us realise.  Thank you to those who have joined with us – either in our central prayer meetings, or in other ways.

Our prayer meetings today are at 7.00-7.45 (St John’s); 12.00-12.45 (St John’s) and 7.30-9.30 (Deep Church at St. Andrew’s).  This evening’s Deep Church session will include prayer, worship, and (as part of our series on Creation) some teaching that might help us navigate how we interact with the idea of evolution.

If you can’t join us today, here are some ideas for prayer:

  • That the Lord would meet us in new ways as we seek to draw near to Him, and grant us a much deeper sense of His presence as we gather together in worship.  That we might learn again to worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’ (Heb.12:28-29)
  • For the Holy Spirit to indwell the structures of our worship…  pray for our services of worship to be places where we know the presence of God at work in our midst.
  • For skill and sensitivity for those who lead us in worship, and for a prophetic insight for those who preach and teach in the life of MIE.
  • For more of our congregations to grasp a vision for the benefit of homegroups, and for our homegroups to increasingly become places where we can share life, enjoy fellowship, and find the pastoral care and common prayer that is so important in the life of a Church family.  Currently about half our congregation are not in home groups.
  • For a deep dependence on God that articulates itself in prayer throughout the life of MIE; that this week will have inspired and encouraged many to a deeper life of prayer and fasting.
  • For a growth in holiness in those who are involved in the life of MIE.  That we would be increasingly characterised by a hunger and thirst for righteousness, and a willingness to repent when we are confronted with our sin.  Pray for a profound likeness to Jesus to be cultivated in our character and in our relationships with one another.

Day 4 - Thursday

I hope, that amongst other things, this week will have whet our appetite for a more consistent prayer life – both individually and corporately.  But we’ll need more than the momentum from a week of prayer to sustain a renewed commitment to pray over the long haul. 

Amongst other things, we’ll need patience.  As with most things in the life of discipleship, it is best to start small and allow things to grow organically.  We think, ‘If I can’t pray for an hour, or through the night, then it isn’t worth trying’. Actually if 10 or 15 minutes is all we have the spiritual strength to sustain on a regular basis, then start with 10 or 15 minutes.  After a few weeks, you’ll find you can start to slowly build it up.  It may take a few years for us to learn how to spend more sustained periods in prayer.  But the journey is far more significant than we realise.  That is as true for us as a Church as it is for us as individuals.   

And we need to recognise the difference between two very different experiences of prayer.  Throughout this week we have been ‘working’ in prayer.  We have been fasting and interceding about people and situations where we long to see God at work; praying about evangelism, discipleship, Church planting, and a host of different aspects of our life together at MIE.  We have been laying ourselves out before God, vulnerable to the work of His Spirit, and looking for Him to work in us and through us.  It is hard work and can leave us physically, spiritually, and emotionally exhausted.  But that is not the only kind of prayer.  There is also the joyful relationship with God – simply being with the God you love, who has captivated your heart.  Walking with God, talking with Him about the stuff of life, enjoying His revealing of Himself to us and allowing Him to feed and sustain us.  Simply enjoying being with Him without an agenda.  In the words of one old saint, it is learning to practise the presence of God, and we need the latter if we are to endure the former.

We need to develop our prayer life in way that is sustainable.  I hope this week will help you persevere.  Anyone can start a marathon, but who will finish it?

Prayer meetings today are at 12.00-12.45, St. Andrew’s and 7.30-8.15 pm at St. John’s (where there will be a chance to pray for the persecuted Church).  If you can’t make them here are some thoughts about Bixley Farm to get you started at home:

  • Pray for good weather on 3rd September, and for help with refreshments / bbq / activities / cake.
  • For the work that needs to be done over the summer – for effective organisation and publicity.
  • Bishop Mike as he speaks
  • For unity in the core mission team as we focus on what He wants not what we think we want.
  • That conversations are opened between the core team and the residents of Bixley Farm and that they are effective.
  • For the impact of launching a new congregation on the Churches at St Andrew’s and St. John’s. 
  • For MIE developing new ways of working as it co-ordinates the life of the 3 congregations.

Day 3 - Wednesday

For many people, speaking in front of others is frankly terrifying.  So why do we insist on praying in groups?  I’ve had a number of conversations in recent weeks about how people struggle to pray in front of others.  What are we doing when we pray publicly?   Whether we are in a service, or a prayer meeting, in family worship, or with a suffering Christian brother or sister, our task is to express to God the unified desire of the Church, to be a mouthpiece, speaking on behalf of the group. The prayer of one person becomes the prayer of us all, as we are brought together to the Throne of Grace.

When I am given the joy of leading in prayer, I’m not seeking to impress other people with my eloquence, insight or theology; or to prove my spiritual stamina with long prayers or my spiritual brokenness with short ones. It’s not about me.  Instead, I have the privilege of praying aloud in a way that is natural to me, while others stand with me, praying the same thing in their hearts.

Acts 2:42 speaks of a Church that is devoted to praying together; Acts 4:24 shows us what that looks like.  When we pray together, we encourage one another, teach one other, we love one other by our concern, and we point one another to God, who tenderly receives the feeble cries of his beloved children.

So how can we overcome our reluctance and pray aloud? Here are a few simple thoughts to get you started:

  • Be a pray-er.  One of the reasons we struggle to pray in public might be that we have not learned how to pray in private.
  •  Let others lead you in prayer.  It may take time to learn to lead in prayer, but the best way to learn is listen to others.  Come along to prayer meetings, and don’t feel under obligation to pray out loud.  Learn to pray quietly in those situations first, then when you are ready, lead the rest of us so we can pray with you!
  • Pray for God’s help. When you know you will lead others in prayer, pray ahead of time for the ability to do it clearly and helpfully.
  •  Resolve to pray. Unless you intend to pray, you probably never will. Resolving to pray include determining beforehand that you will lead us in prayer, and thinking through what to pray about and how to do so in a way that others will resonate with.
  • Consider how you will pray. Search God’s word to find passages that might help shape or inform your prayer, and draw confidence from the many promises that God will hear.

Remember that Jesus is praying with us and for us too (Heb.7:25), so brothers and sisters, let us pray …together!  Throughout today our prayer meetings (at 7.00 am, 12.00 and 7.30 pm) will have an emphasis on our outreach and evangelism.  If you aren’t able to join us today, here are some thoughts that might help you pray throughout today:

  • Give thanks for LIFE exhibition, and for the many hundreds of school children and staff who enjoyed it; and pray that what they learned would not be forgotten
  • Give thanks for the CE course that has just finished, and for that group as they continue to meet over the summer; and ofr recent Family Events nad Messy Church events
  • Give thanks for The Lord’s Prayer Project which is currently running at St John’s.
  • Pray for the 321 course that is still running, and for Just One on 8th July (there are still a few seats left on the coach if you would like to come along!)
  • Pray for the Holiday Club at St. Andrew’s (9-11 Aug), and the Epic Explorers course starting in September
  • Pray for the Who Cares Mission starting in September
  • Pray for Bixley Farm launch on 3rd September and for the team who are taking evangelistic responsibility for that community.
  • for our regular rhythm of outreach through Lunch Club, Drop-in, Leisure Club, Cruisers, Taste Cafe etc
  • and for people to become Christians as they meet Jesus through us and our outreach.

Day 2 - Tuesday

…in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Phil.4:6)

Perhaps one of our prayer meetings this week should be given over to thanksgiving.  I wonder if we would struggle with that.  Might we even suspect it was a waste of time?  Could we sustain a whole meeting without praying anything that was not thanksgiving?  The question seems odd.  At one level we know that there must be plenty to give thanks for…  so why do we struggle to give it voice? 

Torrey again, ‘In approaching God to ask for new blessings, we should never forget to return thanks for blessings already granted’.  Our giving of thanks should probably be as definite as our petition.  Is our lack of gratitude in prayer a cause of powerlessness in prayer?  Is our thanklessness something that grieves God?  Is it something that limits His response to our prayers?  Is it something that hinders our own faith?  Perhaps as we reflected on answers to prayer already given, faith might grow more bold in its approach to the throne of grace.

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind (Ps.107:31).

All three of today’s prayer meetings (12-12.45; 3.30-4.30 & 7.30-8.15) will be held at St John’s Church, in part to take advantage of ‘The Lord’s Prayer Project’.  Rachel will be giving us a lead as we pray with an emphasis on our ministry and outreach amongst children and families.  At 3.30-4.30 there will be a chance for families to pray together with a variety of child-friendly activities. 

If you aren’t able to make it to the prayer meetings today, here are some thoughts to structure your own prayers around throughout the day:

  • For parents as they seek to bring their children up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Eph.6:4), and for the wider Church family as we support them
  • For the effectiveness of Messy Church and Family Events
  • For the small army of Sunday Group leaders, who Sunday by Sunday spend time teaching the younger members of our congregation about Jesus
  • For Rachel as she continues to write our Sunday Group Curriculum
  • For the hundreds of children who enjoyed the Life Exhibition, and for those who this week are engaging with the Lord’s Prayer Project.
  • For our relationship with local schools, and for those who are involved in those schools as Governors, staff, volunteers, leading assemblies and activities, Open the Book teams; helping out with lessons etc.
  • For the Holiday Club at St. Andrew’s (9-11 Aug), and for the Epic Explorers course (CE for children) that we’ll be running in September

Day 1 - Monday

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. (Ps.145:18)

In his compelling little book on prayer, Torrey spends some time thinking this verse through.  He is particularly intrigued by the last two words, 'in truth', which he suggests have to do with sincerity.  He concludes 'the prayer that God answers is the prayer that is real, the prayer that asks for something that is sincerely desired.  Much prayer however is insincere'.

He reflects: 'Many a Church is praying for revival that does not really desire a revival.  They think they do, for to their minds a revival means an increase in membership, an increase in income, an increase in reputation ... but if they knew what a real revival meant, what a searching of hearts on the part of professed Christians would be involved, what a radical transformation of individual, domestic and social life would be brought about, and many other things that would come to pass if the Spirit of God was poured out in reality and power; if all this were known, the real cry of the Church would be: 'O God, keep us from having a revival'.

May this week of prayer be marked by a considered sincerity.

If you can't make it to the prayer meetings today, here are a few thoughts of what to be praying about:

  • Give thanks for recent CE (& Nano) course, the ongoing 321 course; Messy Church and Family Events.  Looking ahead, we are praying for Just One (8th July); Messy Church (15th July); Holiday Club (9-11 Aug) followed by 'Epic Explorers' in September; Who Cares? mission in the autumn term, and looking further ahead, P:18 mission next May; as well as our regular, weekly outreach through lunch club, Drop-In, leisure Club, Cruisers, Taste etc.
  • Give thanks too for a growing ministry team. It was great to see John licensed as Reader at the Cathedral a couple of Sundays ago, as well as Sandra Griffiths being welcomed as a Reader to this Diocese.  They join Andrew, Owen and Roger in a great team of Readers.  Pray for our joint service on 17th September when we will be licensing Jag as a self-supporting Minister; and licensing and relicensing a small army of Elders!  We pray for the work of Elders.
  • For 3rd September: our launch date for Bixley Farm with Bishop Mike (more on this later in the week).
  • For Friday night's Deep Church event exploring the complex, controversial and potentially divisive question of Christians and evolution as part of our series on 'Creation'.
  • For the ongoing recruitment process for a Youth Minister.   The advert is out, and is getting good profile, but no applications yet.  Pray for those who are holding the fort during the vacancy, particularly Dee (Beta); Pam & Andy, Peter & Cynthia (Fuel), Kristien, Lynne & Mike (Kinetic), Jonathan Winearls and Chantelle (Cru).