Today (Wednesday) we hosted a District event called Jesus on the Bus. The District Superintendent invited people to make their way to Roberts Park using the public bus service. It could be described as an immersive experience in mission, an opportunity to reflect and pray with and for those to whom we minister who rely on public transport to get to and from work and family etc.
The start of our 20 mins for God service came just a few minutes after our 24 hour prayer vigil for the UMC Way Forward Commission had ended. Thank you to the six or so members of the church who signed up to be a part of it, and a thank you to the members of other UMC churches and the Conference staff who joined in by offering their prayers.
Ask any Christian what they find hardest in their Christian life and the majority will answer prayer! We find it hard to give prayer proper time and harder still to find the words for what we want to say, but perhaps most difficult of all is coming to terms with the many times when we do not seen to receive an answer or when the answer given is not quite what we hoped for. Faith tells us one thing, experience another, and eventually it is often experience, often all too painful, that tends to win the day. There was a time, perhaps, when we could have asked for something fully confident that God would grant it, but as the years pass and that fails to happen, we find it increasingly hard to keep on believing. As a result our prayers become mechanical, offered more out of a sense of duty than expectation.
Yet God does hear and does respond, our failure to hear the answer is often due to our failure to listen or the straight jacket we subconsciously place on God. It may be that the answer ‘no’, or ‘not yet’, but it may also be that he has already answered ‘yes’ if only we could throw off the shackles of doubt and bring ourselves to believe it.
When did you last pray, expecting God to answer? Have you allowed a fear of abusing prayer to lead you to abandon it altogether?
We should remember the words recorded in John’s gospel that remind us, ‘truly, I tell you this: whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. Until now, you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask, and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.
Perhaps this could be your prayer this week?
‘Gracious God, I don’t have to tell you how weak my prayer life is, for you know it already, or how weak my faith is, for you can see that clearly. I am afraid to pin my hopes on prayer, in case you don’t grant my requests. I am hesitant to ask in case I am seeking the wrong things.
Teach me that you are a God who listens and delights to respond. Save me from the lack of trust that frustrates your purpose, preventing me from recognizing your hand at work, Give me ears to hear and eyes to see, and a heart that truly believes. Through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen (Nick Fawcett)