I recently heard an army veteran say, “There’s no atheists on the front line”. This veteran, still a young man, had seen first-hand the power of God in the face of man’s fear, and could now say how important one’s prayer life was in the face of adversity.
In January, the Guardian newspaper had an article entitled ‘Non-believers turn to prayer in a crisis, poll finds,’ which said that for the non-religious, personal crisis or tragedy is the most common reason for praying; with one in four saying they pray to gain comfort or feel less lonely. For those that struggle to pray, and I include self-professed committed Christians in that category, it is often to do with either not having the words to say or not hearing anything back.
Firstly, God doesn’t need to hear your words spoken allowed. Prayer is something that is done from the heart and gut, not just from the vocal chords. Holding a time of silence with a candle lit, or taking a walk and listening for God, are both legitimate ways to pray. But then so is screaming at the top of your voice in lament, anger or frustration too. The point here is that God doesn’t set conditions for effective prayer he welcomes any time spent with him.
Secondly, prayer is a two-way thing. That’s why it’s so frustrating when you feel your prayers are falling on deaf ears. Listening for God is crucial to a healthy prayer life. Yes, you can give over all your concerns, requests, petitions and intercessions but like any correspondence it will always feel incomplete unless you get a reply. So how do we listen for God's reply? Maybe this will help…
A wise lady and her friend were walking near Times Square in New York. The streets were filled with people, cars were honking their horns, taxicabs were squealing around corners, and sirens were wailing. Suddenly, the wise lady stops and says, 'I hear a cricket.'
Her friend is astounded. 'What? You must be crazy. You couldn't possibly hear a cricket in all of this noise!'
'No, I'm sure of it,' the wise lady said. 'I heard a cricket.'
'That's crazy,' said her friend.
The wise lady listened carefully for a moment, and then walked across the street to where some shrubs were growing. She looked into the bushes and sure enough, she located a small cricket. Her friend was utterly amazed.
'That's incredible,' said her friend. 'You must have super-human ears!'
'No,' said the wise lady. 'My ears are no different from yours.'
'But that can't be!' said the friend. 'I could never hear a cricket in this noise.'
'Yes, you could,' came the reply. 'Here, let me show you.'
She reached into her pocket, pulled out a few coins, and dropped them on the pavement. And then, with the noise of the crowded street still blaring in their ears, they noticed every head within 5 metres turn and look to see if the money that tinkled on the pavement was theirs.
'See what I mean?' asked the wise lady. 'It all depends on what's important to you, on what you're listening for.'
So, what is important to you? If God isn’t, then you're probably not going to hear what he’s saying to you. If he is, then listening for him in the busyness of our lives is the most important thing we can do.
Luke 11:1 reads, "One day, Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray…"
What we forget to mention in this passage is that Jesus went and found a place to pray first before he gave us the Lord’s Prayer. He met with his father every day and modeled a pattern of prayer that sustained his human nature. Listening for God is made easier by committing time, energy and intent. Like the cricket in the story, God’s voice can be heard, it just all depends on what’s important to you.
May you hear the voice of God speak peace and comfort to you. Rev Jeremy Putnam.
All this talk of recycling, protecting the environment, and green energy reminds me of one of my favourite dad jokes. It goes like this: I gave all my dead batteries away today… free of charge!
Since Sunday 1st September the Church of England has been keeping Creationtide, a period in the church calendar that concludes on the feast of St Francis 4th October. At All Saints Truro we’ve been thinking about what a Christian care for God’s creation might look like. We’ve been thinking about the impact of pollution and climate change, and about sustainable living and environmental justice. We’ve been blessed to hear some great speakers and preachers including Dr Tim Taylor (Senior lecturer at Exeter University for Environmental Economics), Luci Isaacson (Diocesan Environmental Officer), Janette Mullett (Director of Epiphany House) and Revd Dr Lucy Larkin (Tutor for SWMTC).
Hearing these people has reminded me of how important it is for Christ’s church to take seriously the instruction to ‘be fruitful, and to care for’ this incredible gift of life. As I’ve reflected on our discussions it has been increasingly clear to me how important this is, and how it’s not so much about the church being ‘green’, although that is important, but more about our walk with Jesus.
I’ve learnt that our relationship with creation is the great leveller, since all of humanity is dependent on God’s gift of life - through His Word and His Spirit in a spiritual sense, and through creation in a physical sense. We all require food, we all require fresh water, warmth and shelter to live. It doesn’t matter if we’re a wealthy oil tycoon, or a struggling unemployed dad of three, we still need the basic elements of life to flourish. Jesus’ ministry was always close to this truth. As he mixed with the rich and the famous and the poor and forgotten, his teaching was never far away from the essentials of human need. It was a grounded ministry, held close to the dirt and earthiness of life.
The more I’ve studied the bible over the course of Creationtide the more I’ve come to realise that Christian discipleship is lived out in our love for Jesus and in our delight for what was created through Him. In essence, how our love for Jesus can be reflected in our love for what was brought about through him. Sadly, much of the developed world has over-consumed and underappreciated God’s creation; and as a result, the poor and forgotten have paid the price.
Christ’s church can take a lead here by making small and simple lifestyle changes, such as recycling our batteries – despite my dad joke. As well as taking the Truro Diocese 10 pledges.
Here’s another dad joke (as they’re called in our household) – Did you hear about the new restaurant on the moon? The food is great, but there’s just no atmosphere!!
I’m really sorry.
Creationtide is about protecting our atmosphere but also about creating a new atmosphere of action in the church to protect God’s creation. And to see this environmental theology as an expression of our walk with Jesus. We don’t need eco-warriors we just need more followers of Jesus who want to keep breaking bread with the world, and want to meet more people at the well.
Revd Jeremy Putnam | All Saints Truro
The laws of maths and geometry teach us that the shortest distance between two points is always a straight line. If only the Israelites had paid attention to this when leaving Egypt, perhaps it wouldn’t have taken them 40 years to arrive in the Promised Land!
These days when we take a long journey we use the likes of Sat Nav or Google Maps, plotting our course based on a number of factors, such as distance, traffic and weather conditions. In Moses’ day they just had the stars - which was in a way, a kind of Sat Nav - but it certainly wasn’t the voice of Google Jane reading out the instructions en-route, “You have wandered too far into the wilderness turn around when possible.”
Wouldn’t it be so much easier if we had a GPS device for faith, and hear the voice of God as clear as our mobile phones, handheld GPS devices and TomToms, helping us to stay fixed to the right path?
The psalmist wrote (Ps 119:105) “Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Trying to articulate God’s vision for the church without listening for his Word is a bit like waiting for the Sat-Nav to give directions only to find you’ve locked it in the boot of the car because you thought you wouldn’t need it. The Word of God is what fuels the fire in our hearts, it is what fills the Church with passion, hope and Godly ambition for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A vision without the Word of God is a vision that has only an earthly sense of place and direction, and therefore we are left with a simple and logical utility like ‘The shortest distance between two points is always a straight line.’
But as the Israelites showed, sometimes the shortest route is not the best route.
Our obedience to the Word of God may well take us on a slower and more challenging route, as it did the Israelites. In his poem “The Road Not Taken,” Robert Frost wrote, “Two roads diverge in a wood, and I – I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.” I think that there is something to be said for taking the easy route because it makes us feel safe. On the other hand there is something profound in taking the road less travelled, even if longer, windier and more dangerous along the way, because in doing so we venture through new territory, experience life and grow in unexpected ways.
God has a habit of working out his plan over the course of time. Very rarely does he call for the ‘quick fix’, or the ‘easy win’. As you read through this vision document you may feel that there is a lot to take in; we have time for this. This is a plan for the next 3-5 years so that we have the freedom to do this on God’s terms, and in His way.
The reason why the Israelites took so long over their trip to the Promised Land is because God wanted them to grow and to learn about the wisdom and grace of God, learning to live with a provisionality and dependency on his Word. We must do the same if we are to see the Gospel prosper and our Lord glorified. We must do the same if we are to see God’s purpose fulfilled in us and the church. Lifelong and meaningful change in the world can only occur through a lifelong and meaningful commitment to the Word of God, Jesus Christ. So my friends, here it is, our chance to make a difference, to grow in faith, to grow in number, to live for Christ and to seek his Kingdom.
Let’s do this together.
Yours in Christ
A collection of thoughts and reflections from the people of All Saints.