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.
Image is of the Bricklayers Hut in Jakarta.
A man who had been stranded on a deserted island for two years was at last found. The media accompanied the rescue team, and when they arrived they saw that the man had built three huts. When asked what the huts represented, the man explained.
"Well, this hut is my home. And that hut over there is where I go to church."
The reporters seemed moved by the revelation that he had a place of worship. But then one asked, "What is that hut over there?"
"That's the church I don’t go to!”
Life is full of preferences. Some more obvious than others, like choosing our favourite ice cream flavour, or watching our preferred rugby team. Some are more deep-rooted, predilections that we don’t even know we have. These are the kind that influence our judgements, decision and yearnings without us even noticing. Over time our environment and upbringing has its way of honing a ‘comfortable place’ for us. Consequently, as we go about our daily lives, we tend to look for reminders of our comfortable place; subconsciously searching for familiarity, comfort and safety. In many ways, this is a good thing, it can help us ‘get on with life’, without getting bogged down by decisions that in the great scheme of things aren’t that important. In other ways, it can be harmful.
Unchecked partialities and bias can lead us to become insular and narrowminded. In the worse cases, it can lead to the exclusion of others because they seem different, odd or even ‘wrong’ to us. This is where the tension and dynamic of life occurs, in all its complexity, diversity and colour. So how do we avoid the sinful reaction to the other’s uniqueness, and reflect something of the impartiality and generosity of God in our daily lives. In the Epistle of James (ch 3.17) we are reminded that there is wisdom in these things that we long to see, “but the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”
One of the things I have delighted in recently is seeing the enthusiasm from all churches in Truro to be more aware of the differences between our churches, but at the same time acknowledging that our preferences are secondary to a more important shared truth. That we all find our identity in Christ. And that we confess Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
In c.62AD Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus saying “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Paul’s letter is a wonderful reminder that the most important thing for churches is to proclaim aloud that we are united under one Lord – we may have a difference in worship style and practice, some will prefer drumkits, and others prefer robed choirs, some will cope with a 10min sermon, and others anything less than a 30min preach feels like being short-changed – these things only go to reflect God’s blessing, to be ourselves under God. Behind it all is the truth that Paul wrote in his letter.
On November 30th at 7.30pm all Christians in Truro, from all denominations and none, will descend upon Truro Methodist Church to pray and worship together. Witnessing to our single universal statement of faith that Jesus is Lord. I am absolutely thrilled that this is happening, and that it lights the second beacon for us in this year of prayer for a shared vision under Christ for our city.
I really want to encourage you to come. I’m telling you now, well in advance, so we can all make sure it’s in our diaries. Please come. Don’t let this be the hut that represents “… the church I don’t go to!”
Yours in Christ
For more information about Churches Together in Truro go to our new website www.churchestogethertruro.co.uk
A collection of thoughts and reflections from the people of All Saints.