Don’t forget that we will be livestreaming a prayer meeting tonight (Thursday 26th March at 7:30 p.m.) using Zoom technology. The link for the meeting is https://zoom.us/j/620046949
You can log in to the meeting using this link on phones (if you have downloaded the free Zoom app) and on laptops/ tablets/ computers. Hopefully we can all see each other and there is the possibility of others talking/ praying via this technology. Please let us know any specific prayer requests during the day and we will pray for these tonight.
Sometimes it can be hard to know how to pray or what to pray, especially during these chaotic times. As always, we return to Scripture: when the disciples asked Jesus ‘teach us to pray’, He gave them a framework for prayer we call the Lord’s Prayer (see Matt 6:9-14).
This framework acknowledges our relationship with God: He is ‘our Father’. We pray not out of duty or from a distance; we pray to a loving, heavenly Father who doesn’t change like shifting shadows (or Coronavirus updates!) and who gives every good and perfect gift. (James 1:17)
We pray to a God who is in heaven, who is above all, who is reigning and ruling and still in control. ‘Hallelujah, for the Lord our God the Almighty reigns!’ (Rev 19:6)
We pray to a holy God who is not tainted by sin in any way. Everything He does is good and right. (Ps 119:68)
We ask for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth, as in heaven. We long to see people bowing the knee to Jesus. We long to see God’s reign and rule evident in the way people live. We long for revival and for people to see their need for God.
We can ask for God’s daily bread in our lives: not only for the practical things that form such a big part of life, but we can ask for that spiritual food which will satisfy our souls. God’s interested in our daily lives!
We can rejoice in the forgiveness we have from God and can live in forgiveness: ‘keep us forgiven and forgiving’. Whilst we may be separated from some people, the daily strain of close proximity to others may test our patience, grace and love. We need to keep on forgiving and heed the advice in Scripture not to go to bed angry, so that we don’t give the devil a foothold in our lives. (Eph 4:26-27) Some versions talk of debts, and at this time of huge economic uncertainty, we can pray for wisdom and help in dealing with financial debt as well. We can pray for the Government as it attempts to help people who can no longer work at the moment and for our economy.
We can pray for protection from temptation and deliverance from the evil one. Ultimately, life is a spiritual battle. This is not just about a physical virus. The enemy is seeking to sow chaos, fear, trepidation and disorder into the world and we need to be aware of his tactics. God is not like that. We need also to be aware that Jesus is coming again and we need to be ready. (1 Thess 5:1-11)
The Message version of the Lord’s prayer ends like this: ‘You’re in charge! You can do anything you want! You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes.’ True prayer will always start and end with God.
Our world desperately needs faithfulness, steadfastness and loyalty. We live in a society where relationships break down all the time and promises are not kept – not just between couples but in whole families and businesses, not to mention politics and government. God shows us an alternative way of living: the way of faithfulness.
God is faithful in all He does. (Ps 33:4) His faithfulness reaches to the skies (Ps 36:5) – a metaphor which reminds us of the vastness of God’s faithfulness. God’s love and faithfulness protect us (Ps 61:7), giving us stability and hope, even in difficult times. Because God is faithful, we can be faithful too.
Are you tempted to give up today on a promise, to back away from a tough relationship, to walk away? Remember God’s faithfulness to you and ask for His Spirit to grow faithfulness in your own heart. In that way, we show something of God’s character and nature to a world which is fickle and unreliable.
Over the past fortnight, as the situation with Covid-19 worsened, we have seen some very bizarre behaviour in our shops and supermarkets. Panic buying became the norm, to the extent that many ordinary items (toilet rolls, soap, tinned food and so on) were simply not available. Empty shelves in supermarkets became a strangely familiar sight, adding to the sense of fear and desperation many were feeling.
This bizarre behaviour has obviously led to many cupboards and pantries being well stocked (and apparently the sale of freezers has exponentially risen, so clearly some companies have profited from the crisis!). Some people clearly find comfort in selfishly stocking up and hoarding goods, as this ironic picture indicates.
Jesus talked about our lives, comparing them to trees. (Luke 6:43-45). He said, ‘each tree is recognised by its own fruit’ (Luke 6:44) – reminding us all of our own individuality which is precious (‘people do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers.’ Luke 6:44) He also points to the simple fact that what we store inwardly is what will be manifested outwardly: ‘a good man brings good things out of the good stored in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.’ (Luke 6:45)
Each day recently I’ve gone to bed exhausted and slightly worried that the next day will be the day when I run out of inspiration. How can I keep going spiritually? How will I continue to minister and speak God’s word? Each morning, as I come before God, I find He is bringing Scriptures to my memory and refreshing me with His word. Each morning, as I wait expectantly on Him, He is there, pouring in fresh hope, endurance, love and strength. Each day I find there are good things stored up in my heart which I can bring forth to munch on and be sustained by!
Let’s store God’s word in our hearts and not worry so much about our store cupboards! ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[ (Matt 4:4) We need God’s word far more than we need anything else right now. By this we shall be sustained, fed and given an overflow that can help others.
Jesus said, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?’ (Mark 8:34-37) The way of the cross, the Jesus way, is one of selflessness – of putting God’s will before our own and of losing our life in order to gain it.
When we look at the cross, we see apparent defeat and humiliation. It looked like the devil won; it looked like evil triumphed. But Jesus gave His life willingly for us so that we could be reconciled to God. We must therefore recognise that the apparently foolish path of selflessness is one which leads to life. We simply can’t reach God and live a fulfilled life by doing things the way the world does. We have to choose an alternative route.
All of us have currently had an ‘alternative route’ (the route of self-isolation) thrust upon us this week. We may well be chafing at the lack of freedom, at the lack of routines, at the difficulties of separation. But we can still embrace selflessness and choose to serve others: either by the sacrifice of work if you’re a key worker or by restricting our normal lifestyles to help others. Selflessness continues long after lockdown!
The benefits of singing are well-known. Apparently the physical benefits include:
Singing strengthens the immune system. …
Singing is a workout. …
Singing improves your posture. …
Singing helps with sleep. …
Singing is a natural anti-depressant. …
Singing lowers stress levels. …
Singing improves mental alertness. …
Singing can widen your circle of friends…
Even in these days of social isolation, people have been singing – there are lovely videos of people singing from their balconies in Italy (you can see them here) and virtual choirs (where people sing where they are and are connected with others through technology) have been set up. I believe it’s crucially important that God’s people continue to sing, wherever we are, and am grateful for the Christian artists who are livestreaming their songs and helping us to have truth to sing at this desperately confusing time.
We’re hoping to include singing in our next Sunday services, and though it will feel very weird singing alone to you (and you singing alone back!), we hope that people will see the benefits of actually singing during our online gatherings.
Ps 32:7 says, ‘You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.’ At this time of ‘hiding away’, our prayer is that we know God as our ultimate hiding place, that He will protect us from the current troubles and surround us with songs of deliverance. Our God reigns. Our God is sovereign over all. Our God is with us and for us. Let’s keep singing these truths: ‘sing it out loud, sing it out strong!’ (‘Celebrate’, Rend Collective)
“Lord, give me patience, and give it to me now!” may be a caricature of a prayer, but the truth is, it’s probably at the heart of many real prayers. Few of us embrace patience willingly. We want what we want and we want it right now. Learning to wait is not an easy lesson for most of us.
Nor do we particularly like God’s method of teaching us patience: suffering (Rom 5:3-4). James tells us that the testing of our faith produces perseverance. (James 1:3) Naturally speaking, we flee from both these things. Yet James tells us that perseverance leads to maturity, to completeness, to a place of not lacking anything (James 1:4). The Holy Spirit wants to grow His fruit (including patience) in our lives (Gal 5:22-23), and we like the sound of a flourishing fruit orchard!
How do we embrace patience, then? I don’t believe it’s an inherited characteristic; I believe it’s a learned quality. Being patient means we learn to trust God with the everyday and the ordinary. We trust Him to sort out the problems and to work good from and in every situation. As we face the uncertainty of social isolation and don’t know when ‘normal’ life will ever resume, more than ever we need to learn to embrace patience.
The biggest way we embrace patience is to learn to be thankful for everything. (Eph 5:20) The writer to the Hebrews says of Jesus, ‘For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.’ (Heb 12:2) There can be no greater example to us of patience than Jesus, and we can be sure that He will give us everything we need.