I should have shared this link earlier, as the “Thy Kingdom Come” season is nearing its conclusion now, but Archbishop Welby’s thoughts on prayer are always relevant.
It’s hard to express in words how much Pastor Samuel Cole means to me. I first met him around the time I gave my life to Christ, and he has been close to my heart ever since, although I hardly see him these days, to my great regret.
Sam introduced me to some great music in one of his side roles as a gospel DJ. But more importantly he showed me what it means to live as an ambassador for Christ. His love for God, and for people, shone brightly. His passion for improving the lives of young people, and bringing them to knowledge of Jesus, was clear to see. His faith, energy and joy were an inspiration.
And on a personal level, Sam has helped to shape my faith, and my life, in such a positive way I could never find suitable words to thank him. We rarely had time to share one to one conversations, but when we did they were very precious. I vividly remember one evening in Leicester during a church event. Sam took me on a guided tour of an area he was redeveloping for worship services and talked to me excitedly about his plans. I think he knew I had something on my mind though, and this was a pretext for giving me an opportunity to share it.
I spoke to him about my concerns. The details of the conversation will remain private, but I can tell you that he shared insights from his own life, he spoke with real compassion and understanding, and he filled me with hope, determination and faith which have never left me since then, even through my lowest points. I wouldn’t be the man I am today without Pastor Sam’s intervention. I would be a much poorer human being in many ways.
Nearly five years ago Sam’s wife Dena phoned me and asked me to come and see them. I did so, and when I sat down with Sam he revealed to me that he had been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. It was shocking news. I remember laying my hand on him and praying what I felt was a pathetic prayer. I just didn’t know what to say, but I cried from my heart for healing.
From that day to this I continue to pray to God for a miracle. I pray that one day Sam will stand, will walk, will speak, and will declare and demonstrate God’s goodness and omnipotence, just as he was doing when I first came to know him. I pray that until that day comes, Sam, Dena and their children will never lose hope, but that they will continue to trust in our Lord, experience His peace, and live in His strength.
I’m not just writing to pay tribute to this man, who I call Pastor, but who is also my brother and my friend. I want to ask you for practical help. There is currently a crowdfunding page created by Sam and Dena, attempting to raise £12,000 to buy a standing wheelchair for Sam, which will improve his quality of life, and which would actually be an answer to one part of my prayer for him.
Here is the page: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/dena-cole-1
I don’t have a huge number of followers, but if each one of you was to donate just £21 (about $26) then we would reach the target. I know that for some of you that is more than you could afford, but some of you could probably donate much more.
I ask you to pray for Pastor Sam and his family and friends. I ask you to prayerfully consider giving what you can to this cause which is very dear to me. And I ask you to share this story as widely as possible.
If, by the time you read this, the crowdfunding project is over, then please consider donating to the Motor Neurone Disease Association to help others with this debilitating illness.
Thank you all for reading this, and thank you Sam for the light you’ve brought into my life.
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
This, then, is how you should pray:
‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Matthew 6:5-14 (NIV)
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people, for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour…
1 Timothy 2:1-3 (NIVUK)
I was impressed a week or so back when I saw the photo of Bear Grylls praying over President Obama. Here is one of the many articles about it.
Most of the comments I’ve read have been praising Bear for this public manifestation of his faith, and I applaud that too – it’s something I could learn from. But I was equally impressed with Obama for allowing this image to be shared, and for what this says about him.
In previous generations he might have been described as “Leader of the Free World”. Even now, whatever you may think about his policies, character or beliefs, he is undoubtedly the most powerful individual human being in the world today, with an extraordinarily wide influence. I can’t imagine what it must be like to live that life.
So what the photo with Grylls says to me is that this most powerful man recognises his lack. He has the humility to allow another man to reach out and intercede with Almighty God on his behalf. This is what I want from a leader. Leaders must make decisions, and sometimes those decisions are not ones that we all agree with, but no leader is infallible, no leader has all the answers, and I have more respect for those leaders who admit and embrace their frail humanity, and who accept advice – and prayer.
You can learn a little more about Bear Grylls’ background and faith in this article.
This week brought a similar story from closer to (my) home, as Queen Elizabeth II became the longest serving monarch in British history. Again there were many articles all over the web, but this one spoke to me.
The Queen has no real power to speak of, although she has a certain amount of influence. Like the US President she has her critics, but from a slightly different variety of Republican!
In terms of leadership she is merely a figurehead, but the way she has carried out her duties – and continues to do so into old age – and how she has chosen to serve her country in the role assigned to her for the rest of her life, is a lesson to us all. She clearly has a strong Christian faith and feels that this is the way she has been called to serve God.
In the more humdrum environment of my workplace we have annual performance reviews, and these include an appraisal of our “leadership traits”. To say that I don’t enjoy these reviews would be an understatement, and I often wonder what’s the purpose? Why are you examining the leadership qualities of everyone, including the most junior employees, some of whom are content to just get on with the job and take home their pay, with no ambition to become supervisors, managers… leaders?
Well, although I wonder, I really shouldn’t, because the truth is that every one of us is a leader in some respect, if not at work then within our families, or friendship groups. Even if our roles in those groups seem to be more sheep than shepherd, in reality we are influencing everyone around us in the way we behave, especially in the way we respond to negative situations.
I often pray for leaders. Occasionally it is for political leaders, but most often it is for the leaders of the church – my own church, or those I have connections with, and sometimes for global church leaders such as the Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury.
What we should all do is pray for everyone who has an influence on us – that they would be positive motivators for us. And we should pray that we will deliver a positive message to everyone whose lives we touch, that we can become more interested in serving than in being served, and that we will recognise our weaknesses and accept help and prayer in those areas.
Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’
Mark 10:42-45 (NIVUK)
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.
The primary purpose of prayer is not to persuade God to act on your – or somebody else’s – behalf. God has things pretty well sussed, His plans are made, and He’s not in the habit of changing His mind (Isaiah 46:10-11, Numbers 23:19).
No, the primary purpose of prayer is to change you – to move you to compassion, to transform your mind, to open your eyes to the direction where He is leading you, to align you with His will.
Consider a line from arguably the most famous prayer in the world, a line that is included in countless other prayers every day.
“Your will be done.” – Matthew 6:9-10
Often phrased as “Lord, have Your way,” this prayer was spoken by Jesus not only in the Sermon on the Mount, but also in Gethsemane as he contemplated his coming crucifixion (Matthew 26:39). And what Christ did next tells you everything about the purpose of prayer – He acted on it.
What do you imagine it means to God when you ask Him that His will should be done? Do you think it might prompt Him, stir Him into action thinking “I’m glad you reminded Me!” Of course not. As your prayer is directed to God, so He reflects it back to you in a perfected form, and if your heart is really open to Him then you receive that reflection, you recognise it as His response, and you understand how He is directing you to act. This is the power of prayer – it actually connects you to God’s will.
If you ask the question “Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?” then you’re likely to hear several standard answers. Among them are selfish motives, unrepentant sin, unbelief and hypocrisy (James 4:3, Psalm 34:15-16, Proverbs 28:13). At the root of all these issues is pride. Pride blinds us to God’s reflection of our prayer, and we refuse to acknowledge our part in the responsibility for doing His will.
Sometimes our part is very small, but that doesn’t make it insignificant – “For want of a nail…”
And sometimes of course the only thing we can actually do is pray. In those circumstances, whether the answer comes through the actions of others or directly by God’s hand, and whether it comes today or years down the line, our prayers still need to change us. We need to learn to trust God, to be thankful to Him in all circumstances, to love unconditionally, and to keep our faith (Romans 8:18-39). As God reflects such prayers back to us, they come wrapped in His peace, and we gain a deeper appreciation of His sovereign power and His infinite mercy.
The promises of man
Are castles made of sand
And the tide will wash them through
Before the day is done
But the promises of God
Are stronger than a rock
And they will endure
Beyond the earth and sun
Almighty God, despite Your instruction I still worry too much about what tomorrow may bring. But I want to thank You today. I want to thank You for not promising me tomorrow, but instead promising me eternity, with You, in paradise. I thank You in the precious name of Jesus. Amen.
25 August 2010