Like many children, I was taught to say my prayers at a very early age – and it was the typical childhood prayer, “God bless mummy, God bless Daddy … God bless the cat and dog …God bless Aunty Flo …and, oh yes, please make Bernard a good boy”. I continued praying in this way until my teens, partly because I felt I aught, and partly because I had the idea that something bad might happen if I stopped! Gradually the long list of prayers every night became a chore, so I came up with a very clever ruse: Sunday night I would pray through the whole list. Then on Monday I would pray “God bless the people I prayed for last night”, and jump into bed. I would then quite happily stretch this out to last for a week, or even a fortnight, before praying through the list again.
I can’t remember when I learnt the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6: 9) but that was reserved for Sunday School and church on Sundays. It was when Jesus became real to me that the Lord’s Prayer became precious, and prayer itself took on a whole new dimension.
Just as Jesus is the touchstone in understanding the Bible so he is the touchstone in understanding prayer. We pray IN THE NAME OF JESUS (John14:18) and so the Spirit of Jesus must be the guiding hand in how we pray and what we pray for.
Life becomes a prayer (1Thess 5:17) – prayerfulness is how we live. It is not just praying through a list of names, prayerfulness is an attitude of life towards God and others: it is a thankfulness of spirit, a yearning of the heart, an anxiousness for people and for the world, a regret for stupidities and a trust in God’s grace and mercy. I also discovered that in prayer a whole new world opens up. In prayer I can soar into outer space, I can encircle planet earth, I can draw close to any situation or any person in any part of the world.
I discovered that prayer is not just praying to God, but actually becoming a co-worker WITH God for His good purposes (2 Cor 6:1; Heb 3:14). In prayer I am not battling with reluctant God, I am actually striving ALONGSIDE God for his good purposes and crying from my heart THY KINGDOM COME THY WILL BE DONE.
A useful mnemonic came my way to help me embrace the whole range of prayer – A.C.T.S.
A - ADORATION
The view from Frodsham Hill – awesome.
The airwaves that give instant communication around the globe – awesome. The birth of a baby – awesome.
“Hands that flung stars into space to cruel nails surrendered” – awesome.
When we are overwhelmed by a glimpse of the love and creative words of God, we fall silent and adore – this is prayer.
C – CONFESSION
The Bible is brutally honest, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23) – including me and you. None of us is as good as we should be, or could be. But the nail marked hands of Jesus help us to glimpse the agony in the heart of God, and gives us the assurance that “if we confess our sins … he may be trusted to forgive our sins and cleanse us” (1 John 1:9).
Difficult to grasp but it is true, we are forgiven – there still may be consequences to face, but we are forgiven – this too is prayer.
C also stands for COMPANIONSHIP, and this we enjoy with Jesus, for He is our friend (John 15:14), and has promised to walk alongside to the end of time (Matt 28:20) – this is prayer.
T - THANKSGIVING
We are all pleased to receive gifts, but often slow to say “thank you”. How we have struggled with our children over thank you letters! But what joy a simple thank you can give; what joy in the heart of God when we say thank you in our prayers (Eph 5: v20). There are so many hard experiences in life it is sometimes hard to find something to be thankful for – but that old song has a lot to commend it – “Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done” (Eph 5:20; 1Thess 5:18) and it is amazing how our spirit can be lifted as we learn to say THANK YOU – this too is prayer.
S – SUPPLICATION
Here we can have the list of names and causes for which we want to pray. (Phil 1:4). It is helpful to have a notebook and spread our list over a few days – some we pray for everyday, some every week, some every month, some every birthday. Prayer is never wasted. Just as we tap the airwaves when, with our mobiles we speak to our loved ones in Australia, so in prayer we set off vibes which can reach to anyone, near or far. We are co-workers with God and are striving with Him for the blessing of those we love and for all creation – this too is prayer.
To “pray without ceasing” is not spending 24 hours a day on our knees. It is being consistent in joining with God in seeking to clothe needy and wayward humanity in the streams of goodwill that flow from the heart of God – this is prayer (1Thess 5:17).
But what about unanswered prayer? I have no ready answer. But if it is true that in prayer we become co-operators WITH God, then our prayers become part of God’s striving and yearning to draw all creation unto Himself (Col 1:20) so no prayer is wasted and no prayer is unanswered.
So, hand in hand with our Bible Reading Notes, and the Methodist Prayer Handbook, take your time to explore the wonderful world of prayer. Let Jesus lead you step by step, as you pray in His name and for His sake (Acts 2:42).
THE METHODIST PRAYER HANDBOOK helps us to pray for the world wide church month by month throughout the year; if you would like a copy for 2015/2016 please add your name to the list in the church foyer.
Our own INTERCESSORY PRAYER GROUP meets every Monday morning at 9.30am in either the foyer or the Quiet Room. Contact: Marion Greer
Rev'd. Bernard Dodd
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Written by the Minister & Members