For such a time as this…Pray!
When we pray, God hears.
As we enter into this new year, probably more than any other year, I’ve become very conscious there are so very few constants I can rely upon. As I write, my wife Maggie is planning to return to school, but we’re aware that could all change before I even complete this article!
We’ve become accustomed to a new normal where nothing, it seems, can be assumed to remain the same from one week to the next. But God. ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.’ (Hebrews 13:8). New year, old year, all year, every year.
Before I gave following Jesus Christ a thought I prayed on occasion. In reality this meant praying the only prayer I knew; the Lord’s Prayer. In truth, I only ever prayed these words when I became conscious I was in some form of trouble and because I only knew one prayer, if felt I needed to pray again, I repeated the prayer. Sometimes I needed to repeat it several times! Whatever else was going on in and around my life during that period, God heard.
Let me be clear: I had next to zero understanding and no experiential encounter with God. However, somehow, unconsciously, I was drawn to a point where I began searching for the reality of God. My recollection is, the time my searching for God became conscious, ‘is there a God’/’if you do exist could you reveal yourself’/’if you are real, how can I be sure’? lasted around three months. Sometime between the end of what we used to call the lower sixth and the beginning of the upper sixth, I became a Christian. (I ‘think’ in new money they are now called years 12 & 13!) I couldn’t have told you I’d become a Christian as I didn’t even know the term. There were people who ‘were religious’ or ‘went to church’, but that was as far as my awareness went. What I was absolutely clear about was, I had encountered the reality of Jesus Christ and subsequently had been along to the Baptist Church with my next-door neighbours for a couple of weeks. I’ve no doubt, the reply of my sixteen year-old self, when asked about my summer holidays, ‘I’m a changed man’ was little understood by my friends and probably even less by me! However, 45 years later, the reality that God not only heard, but answered the deepest prayer of my heart, remains the constant of my life.
Thankfully I’ve been able to listen to a stream of stories during the last nine months of people becoming Christians. It feels as if, but may not be the case, most have come to know the reality of Jesus as Lord and Saviour, in spite of us, rather than because of us. By that I mean, like me they’ve responded to the personal work of the Holy Spirit in their lives, initially with a negligible awareness of the things of God.
Do I believe today God hears my prayers? Absolutely.
Do I believe we’d see more shoots of the kingdom of God springing up if we paid more attention and expressed our hearts to God in prayer more? Absolutely.
I’m not asking everyone to join us on-line for our next Bless Prayer Gathering, but I am asking everyone of you to give yourself to prayer. I am asking every church across Webnet to provide the opportunity and create the space to gather your church in prayer together. I realise many of you will already have plans, either a week or evening of prayer and it would be great to hear from you:
- What is the focus of your prayers?
- What are you hearing from God?
We can pass these on and share with one another.
Prayer changes things.
We have been blessed to be a blessing and I hope you recognise this has been the banner heading for our regional bi-monthly prayer gatherings. We have planned to hold these, at least for the first half of this year, as follows:
When I reflect on how God has acted in and through my life, I confess I wonder sometimes, ‘how much more’? I have similar thoughts when I reflect on churches I have led and been a part of, as well as our experience during this global pandemic. I don’t beat myself up over what might, or might not have been. I do wonder how many more people God may have drawn into his all-embracing salvation.
My personal testimony is during the two darkest periods of my life so far, two things were my experience:
- I was more consciously aware of the presence of God my heavenly Father than usual
- I was more aware of other people praying for me when I was at my lowest and least capable
I don’t ponder what might have been had this not been the case; I’m just grateful.
Who am I and why am I here? I am a child of God and here to declare his glory.
I’ve been challenged recently, by Gerald May’s words in The Awakened Heart: The freedom question, then, is not whether we can do whatever we want but whether we can do what we most deeply want.
Here’s some things on my list:
- The awareness of the glory of God
- The renewal of the church of God
- The acceptance of the gospel of God
We are all here for ‘such a time as this’.