Our service this Sunday was led by Rev. Tim Hurren from St Peter’s Church. On my arrival at church I was asked if I was doing a reading, as no one knew who was reading the Bible readings. I said I was willing to do a reading, so I read from Psalm 37; Trevor our minister read the reading from Ephesians and Gordon Lister our supernumerary minister read the gospel reading from Matthew. We began worship by singing ‘Beauty for Brokeness’ before the prayers then I read from Psalm 37. We then sang another favourite hymn of mine, ‘Be still for the presence of the Lord’ before the readings from the New Testament. Before the sermon we sang a version of the hymn, ‘The Lord’s my shepherd’ with a chorus.
Tim sympathised with our problems over the development of our church and told us that the Baptist Church had faced similar problems; apparently English Heritage were satisfied with their plans but the Baptist Heritage group had a problem with it, so It too has ground to a halt. Tim told us that there had been teething problems in their newly developed church and felt that in the midst of all the business they were in danger of depending on their new building and their own selves rather than on prayer. He told a story of the Baptist Church led by Charles Spurgeon which had grown from strength to strength, leading to further church expansions up to the capacity of 6000 people. Some students arrived early for the service and a man invited them in to show them around the church. He said he would show them the heating plant of the church which puzzled the students as it was a hot time of year; he showed them a room filled with a group of 700 people who were preparing for the service in prayer; that was the power house of the church! The man who showed them round was none other than Charles Spurgeon himself.
Tim attended Dartford Grammar school which he regarded as pointless as it had taught him nothing relevant for his life and added incidentally that Mick Jagger attended the same school at about the same time, although he had not known him. The school motto was prayer first and then work. Whilst he was at the school he had met some Christians among the pupils and staff. Now 50 years on girls attend the 6th form and there is a state of the art new centre named after its famous pupil Mick Jagger. However Tim noted that there was no mention now of the former school motto, which saddened him.
Tim recognises how tempting it is to rely on ourselves not on prayer. Jesus knew the value and importance of prayer as is described in the gospel reading from Matthew. Why he wonders should we be a prayerful church, as we pray renewing our relationship with God our Father. God’s presence is everywhere and when we pray we acknowledge that presence. Good marriages work if we do things together and keep our communication channels open. A life of prayer develops our relationship with God, who is always listening. We can tell God exactly what we are feeling, our hopes, our fears and our sorrows. Prayer restores our true soul as we are linked to eternity. In France Tim remembered seeing how the sunflowers turned themselves towards the sun for their source of light, warmth and nourishment. In the same way as we pray we turn to our Lord and grow into the person he wants us to be. Prayer enables us to reach out in compassion towards other people in other nations in difficulties such as Mali, when we are unable to travel there. As Paul reminded us the Spirit can help us in our prayer when we do not know how to pray.
One night the parents were puzzled when their little boy was using the reciting of the alphabet as his prayer, but the boy said that he did not know who or what to pray for, but God would know and put the words together for him from the alphabet,
Tim then looked at the different types of prayer recognising that asking for things for others, and ourselves are the sort of prayer most used; God encouraged us to ask that we might receive. However it is not like putting a debit card into a machine and get money out. He described the prayer of a wealthy man who was the owner of several Estates, nine of which were in London and he prayed
that God might protect his interests wherever they were but did not need to help the other areas!!
However Tim thought that true prayer is 80% listening. Listening helps us find out what Jesus is saying to us and align our lives with his. We are challenged on all sides by popular culture so we need to listen to Jesus in the midst of our lives.
He told us about the ice houses at Harewood where ice was stored when the lake froze and the ice would be used all through the summer. Someone had lost his watch in the ice house but after much searching could not find it. However a small boy went in and soon afterwards he came out with the watch; what he had done was to close the door and lie down on the floor and listen, so he soon heard the watch ticking and located it. God is always listening but do we listen?
We can often answer our own prayers Tim suggested; for example maybe we are a part of the solution to a conflict at work. He reminded us of Paul’s encouragement in Ephesians when he praised God who was able to do more than we can ever ask for or even think of through his power working in us.
Tim asked us whether we believed that as he reminded us that every time we pray we align ourselves more firmly to God.
Why does prayer make a difference if God is all powerful and omniscient? God is not a god we create in our own image but the God revealed to us through Christ Jesus. Somehow when we pray we align ourselves to God’s purposes and free God to be God. Every church is a kingdom community and each church is praying in the kingdom. Power does not live with the politicians or materialism at all. How prayer works is a mystery but through it we have a journey of discovering its potential as we pray.
Then we sang ‘Father I place into your hands’ which seemed to me the most appropriate song to follow the sermon. The service concluded with the triumphal hymn; ‘Christ triumphant ever reigning.’