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I Recommend PrayerMate

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I became aware last year that my prayer life wasn’t everything that it should be. While I would frequently talk to God throughout the day, it felt like casual conversation, small talk. I knew that I needed to be more intentional in devoting time to prayer, and more focused in what I spoke to God about.

So I was very interested when I read about PrayerMate. I’m sorry I can’t remember exactly who mentioned it – I found it in an article referenced in an email from one of several Christian mailing lists that I’m subscribed to.

PrayerMate is basically an electronic prayer list, and this is how I use it: I have four categories, one for the Church (both local and global), one for my family, one for my Small Group, and one for my friends. Within each of those categories are a list of subjects that I want to pray for. So most of the categories contain a list a people. The Church category is different, as its subjects include local initiatives, global conflicts, and general issues such as Church leadership.

PrayerMate sets an alarm each day – very useful for me! Then I open it, and I am presented with one subject from each category, so everyday I will pray for three specific individuals and one Church issue. PrayerMate rotates the subjects so that they are different every day, and over the course of a week or so I will pray for everything and everyone on my list.

If there are particular issues concerning one of my subjects, for example a health issue for a Small Group member, then I can add notes about this, and those notes are shown when PrayerMate selects that person for prayer.

I will be adding a new category soon, for Praise and Devotion, as this is something I don’t include enough in my prayers. I will be adding lines of scripture, especially from the Psalms, to acknowledge God’s majesty and faithfulness, so that I give Him the honour due to Him before submitting my petitions to Him.

PrayerMate comes pre-loaded with a few categories and subjects, which you can adapt or delete if you wish. There are also many ways to configure the way subjects are selected for daily prayer, for example to focus more on categories that are closer to your heart. I haven’t used half of the available options.

I feel much more comfortable about my relationship with God now that I have this tool to help me develop discipline in my prayer life. If you don’t need help in this area then I am very pleased for you, but for me, PrayerMate has been an true blessing.

Much Dreaming and Many Words

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I can’t say that I have a favourite Bible verse. There are many that I return to time and again, according to my mood and the season of my life. One of those is Psalm 23:4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.” It means a lot to me, particularly in my current season. But I didn’t want to talk about that today because it’s too well known and too obvious – I like to not be obvious! But the word “fear” struck me. I know the Bible has a lot to say about fear, so I looked for more examples and this verse leapt out:

Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God.
(Ecclesiastes 5:7)

This is a verse I want to keep in my heart, for several reasons.

It comes at the end of a passage in which the writer is warning about making hasty vows to God. It’s very easy to make promises in the heat of the moment, at a time of desperation. But God knows whether you are able to keep that promise, and He won’t be impressed if you make one that you can’t follow through with. Why would you try to impress God anyway? Maybe you say something unwise in a public situation not to impress God, but (consciously or not) to impress other people. That’s just as foolish, or maybe more so.

Out of context there are other subtle variations of the message that appeal to me: why keep dreaming impossible, and meaningless, dreams? Make your aspirations realistic, so you can achieve them and actually do some good instead of just talking about doing something great.

I like to play with the phrase “many words are meaningless” as a warning not to babble on about things, just to keep to the point, and keep it short and simple. I’ve certainly sat through some sermons where this would apply! And I know I’m sometimes guilty of using six words where one will do!

But I can’t help smiling most at the blunt conclusion “Therefore fear God.” At the end of the day, whatever we think, whatever we say, and indeed whatever we do, it’s not about us, it’s about God, and that’s where our focus should be throughout the good, the bad and the ugly days.

So in very simple terms, the verse is telling us: “Say what you mean, mean what you say, keep your feet on the ground, and put God first.” That’s wisdom to hold on to every day.

A Year in the Life

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The fireworks have started, I hear them outside my window. As I write it is nearly 10pm in Birmingham, England. 2014 will soon be history.

Looking back at the year, it feels like quite a dreadful one, almost certainly the worst I’ve experienced since I came to faith. You may not have got a sense of that from my blog posts, and that is something I regret. When I first started blogging it was my stated intention to share my life – my journey – with you, including the ups and the downs. What I didn’t realise at the time was that something that felt so internal and personal to me is actually almost entirely shaped by my relationships with other people. Friends, family, brothers and sisters in Christ, other loved ones, and not-so-loved ones. They have all had issues to deal with, some of which have involved me directly, and they have all had an impact on me, for better or for worse.

And yet I’ve been unable to share with you so much that has filled my prayer life, because I’m determined not to share anyone else’s story without their permission, especially when they involve sensitive situations or emotions. And the situations and emotions are ongoing, so I haven’t reached a point where I feel comfortable to ask permission.

Occasionally over the years I’ve shared personal vignettes, with participants left unnamed and stories intentionally vague. Right now I don’t feel able to do even that, though I’m sure I’ll find opportunities in the future.

But at present all you know is that 2014 has been dreadful in my eyes. Sure, I can think of many blessings, stars twinkling in the dark sky. But my, the sky is dark.

Where can I look for my hope for 2015? Where else but to the Lord, and to His word. I wanted to end this post quoting Philippians 4:10-13 but when I went to Bible Gateway to find the exact scripture reference (after writing the previous paragraphs) I was amazed to see their verse of the day, no doubt inspired by the time of year:

This is what the Lord says — he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters,

“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.”

Isaiah 43:16.18-19

Wow.

I’m thankful that although I feel unable to share the deepest issues of my life here at present, I have good friends who I can talk to, and who can give me wise counsel, or if needs be just a comforting shoulder. And I’m thankful that God is ever-present, even if I sometimes don’t see him through tears of sadness or frustration.

My prayer for you, my friend, is that you too have such friends, and that you too know God’s presence in your life. And whatever 2014 was to you, I pray that your coming year will be characterised by God’s joy and peace, and that you will see a way in the wilderness, and streams in the wasteland.

Lord Light the Flame

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I want to share with you the words of a beautiful song by Ruth Fazal. The tune is lovely, but unfortunately I can’t find a video online. The words though, are very dear to me, and speak clearly of where I am with God, and where I want to be, at this moment.

Lord, light the flame in my heart
That I may live for You.
O let it burn deep and bright,
That I may shine Your light.
Come cleanse and purify
The sin within me,
Let it die.
And let me live in Your fire,
O Holy God, that’s my desire

Lord, stir the fire in my heart,
That I may live for You.
O Jesus pour out Your love,
That I may love You too.
Go deep within me now,
O Holy Spirit come with power.
And let me live in Your fire,
O Holy God, that’s my desire.

You can learn more about Ruth at her website. This song can be found on her album “Fire of Love“. If you ever get a chance to see Ruth in concert, take it. I had the pleasure of spending an evening in her company along with about 50 others, in a small church in 2011. It was a wonderful, spirit-filled occasion.

On Love

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Life can be very sad, and it is love that makes it so. When we weep for sadness, it is because we have lost, or are losing, or fear the loss, of something or someone we love.

But then because our sadness is born out of love, it is beautiful. Because love is beautiful. Love is the most beautiful and precious gift that God has blessed us with. Because God is love, so when we love, we experience the merest hint of knowledge of the divine.

When we consider how much love hurts, how it can crush us with immeasurable grief, and when we consider how little we love, compared with God Himself, then how great must be His grief when we turn away from Him, when we condemn ourselves to eternal separation from Him, when we refuse to accept His offer of salvation, but instead choose to worship the sin we think we love.

How little do we understand love?

Interfaith – A Perspective from The Philippines

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I am always asked by our children “Why are there so many churches? Why are there so many religions?” And my regular answer, and spontaneous answer is – it is not the will of God, it is a fruit of human selfishness, it is really a fruit of human sin. Now if you look at the relationship between the Iglesia ni Cristo and the Protestant churches, or the fundamentalist churches, or even Islam, in relation to the Catholic church, there should be always a point of unity, because religion must never, never be used to divide people. There can be no peace in the world if there is no peace among religions.

– Archbishop Socrates Villegas

This was a quote I picked up from an episode of “Heart and Soul” about Iglesia ni Cristo on the BBC World Service. It struck a chord with me. You can listen to the whole episode here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p027xnnr

Only You, My Jesus

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Only You make my life complete
Only You give me peace of mind
Only You
Only You
Only You, my Jesus

Only You can release my heart
Only You can redeem my soul
Only You
Only You
Only You, my Jesus

This song came to me while I was driving through Luxembourg, from Clervaux to Walferdange, on 30 June 2009. As soon as I got back to my hotel I made this recording.

You can watch me sing it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnATNk45-UQ

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