Prayer Month 8th – 14th May

Today’s thoughts are provided by Rev. Paul Martin

You can download a copy of these prayers here. 

A friend once suggested to me that his church prayer meeting is often the setting for big competition. The basis of the competition was who could use the most flowery language. I think the notion is a bit unfair at least judging from prayer meetings I have attended. However, there is when approaching a God of wonders a powerful impulse to use the language of poetry to express ourselves. How else can we approach the One who is beyond our comprehension let alone mundane words?

But prayer can often be more raw than this. It sometimes comes more from the guts than the head. As Anne Lamott has observed the two most real prayers are “Help me, help me, help me” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” There is something very authentic about such prayers, particularly at this time. We all have moments when such cries are where we are at, but with the current pandemic this is, I suspect, where most of us are. The challenges of the current situation are so great that we are unable to see with any clarity the way ahead. But amidst our very real fears we are grateful for those who help us, even at great risk to themselves

There is a Biblical tradition of lament. We see it in many of the Psalms and particularly powerfully in the Book of Lamentations. Lives have caved in and with nowhere else to turn our authors, often having poured their hearts out, then look in desperation to God whose goodness they recall. After this they beg for God’s help. I believe that is our current situation. After all, in a world of change and turmoil the love of God is one thing that is constant.

As we offer thanks and cry for help, we are joining ourselves with others who have lived through tempestuous times. We seek our refuge in the unchanging love of God. As the hymn often sung in times of crisis puts it:

“O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast,
and our eternal home.”

May we cry out for help from God whilst not forgetting to thank God for those people and happenings for which we have reason to be grateful.

PRAYER SUGGESTIONS

1/. Bring all the anxieties and fears you have to God asking for help.

2/. Give thanks for those who are helping us individually and as a nation to get through these times as well as for all people and resources that make life worth living even in these tempestuous times.

Today’s thoughts are provided by Rev. Paul Martin

You can download a copy of these prayers here. 

Every so often I encounter people whose approach to prayer is one of “Name it, Claim it!” All sorts of things are claimed such as parking spaces, outcome of football matches and even the results of elections. The trouble with all of this is that it seems to me to reduce prayer to the level of some sort of holy magic.

The trouble with this approach is that even earnest prayer does not always produce the undoubtedly good outcome for which we pray. I have prayed for people I have loved and troubled situations in our world to seemingly no avail. And yet it seems right to to go on praying. Why? Because scripture encourages us to do so.

Luke tells a parable about a widow and an unjust judge. He begins the episode with the following verse:

“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them they should always pray and not give up”
(Luke 18 v1)

St. Paul writing his first letter to the church in Thessolonica writes:

“Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
(1 Thessolonians 5 v17-18)

In the Gospels we find Jesus building prayer into the rhythm of his life even on the night in which he was betrayed. As for the great interpreter and missionary that was St. Paul, we find him regularly assuring the churches he was involved with of his prayers for them. Sometimes he gives thanks for them. Other times he prays for their spiritual growth.

So, prayer is not a fancy option but an essential part of being in Christ. And it deepens our relationship with God.

Sometimes in prayer we focus on the wonder of God. As we express our adoration, we ourselves gain as we are reminded of the nature of a God who is creative, loving, faithful and merciful as well as being so much more. In prayers of adoration we find assurance of God is truly good beyond compare.

Sometimes we focus on our need of confession. If, as we believe, God is incomparably good we have to be pretty conceited to believe we match up. We need a time to confess both our individual failings and those of our community, nation or whatever. This is about being right with God. And when we reach out to God, we find that God has beaten us to it and offered us forgiveness of the past and encouragement to start again as forgiven people given the opportunity to learn from the past.

Sometimes in prayer our focus is on thanksgiving. We are always in debt to God and have much to be grateful for. If you think back to the story of the ten lepers that Jesus healed of their condition the one who found true wholeness was the Samaritan who came running back to thank Jesus (Luke 17 vs 11-19).

Finally, there are times in prayer when our focus is on other people and situations, sometimes local and sometimes global. Of course, sometimes these prayers do not lead to the outcome we desire but I believe that such prayers are never wasted. It is to be hoped that through such prayers we have in love brought concerns to God. The outcomes may sadden us or even have broken our hearts, but love is never wasted.

Prayer is not about magic. It is so much more important than that. It is about our love outpouring to God through which we come ever closer to God. And whilst there is mystery in the Divine response, we do well to persist. Never give up! Keep on praying!

Prayer Suggestions

Reflect on the wonder of God.
Gratitude for volunteers helping at this time.
Pray for those whose hearts are broken over loved ones.
Retail workers, transport workers and refuse workers.

Today’s thoughts are provided by Rev. Paul Martin

You can download a copy of these prayers here. 

The early months of 2004 were among the most stressful days of my life. I was still working as a lay pastor on the Isle of Man, but I was now going through the early months of candidating for the Methodist ministry. In fact, I had already given in my notice so that the Ramsey Methodist Circuit would be able to appoint a successor to me in good time for that person to be ready to move over in August. I cannot exaggerate my concern at what I was putting my family through. If I was to be turned down, I would be without a home to go to or a job to take on. Indeed, I would have to leave the Island that I had come to love because my work permit would cease.

I found myself working incredibly hard anticipating questions that would come my way at the Connexional selection process at London Olney. In fact, I overprepared and during the two days there was rather eager to make my points. During one of the interviews there was no shutting me up and one of the interviewers looked at me and asked,

“Do you ever get time to listen?”

Listening is a very important part of prayer. Sure, it is good that we are able to express the things on our heart to our Father God. But that is only a part of it. Prayer is also about being able to listen for the voice of God and God’s guidance amidst the noisiness of life. It is not so much me getting my way with God as God getting God’s way with me. It is about enabling God to transform my being and my thinking that in turn may change my doings. As with any relationship, as my wife sometimes reminds me, there needs to be two-way communication.

John Bode puts it well in the hymn “O Jesus I have promised.”

“O let me hear thee speaking
In accents clear and still,
above the storms of passion,
the murmurs of self-will;
O speak to reassure me,
to hasten and control,
Lord speak and make me listen,
O guardian of my soul.”

I hope that is our experience and that prayer might be a two-way process in which our relationship with God is enabled to grow!

POINTS FOR PRAYER

1/. Hospitals and care homes with prayers for staff and patients/residents in this difficult time.

2/. Our churches. That we might find ways of remaining as communities of faith in very different times using new means.

Today’s thoughts are provided by Rev. Cathy Gale

You can download a copy of these prayers here. 

For yesterday’s prayer focus we were reminded that Wesley identified “Works of Piety” (such as Prayer, Searching the Scripture and Holy Communion) and “Works of Mercy” as means of grace – channels through which God engages us in loving relationship.  Today I invite us to focus on what Wesley called “Works of Mercy”.  Perhaps we can translate this rather dated phrase to “Works of Love” or “Acts of Kindness”.

A true story – in my last appointment in Jamaica, the largest church, where the Circuit Office was located, was in a smart, uptown Kingston community surrounded by shops and restaurants.  It was often frequented by men and women who were struggling – some drug addicts, some with severe mental illness, many homeless.  They came because they could make something through begging and could get cheap food from fast food outlets.  Eric was a regular at my church office.  He was a drug addict who had a winsome personality and no matter how many times you helped him out, he always asked again the next time he saw you!  One evening, I was coming out of the church office, heading to the hall to lead a Bible Study.  I was tired and, probably, a bit short tempered.  Eric was there and begging for some help.  I answered him honestly. “Eric, I can’t help you today.  I don’t get paid till the end of the week and I’m broke.”  Eric, looking crestfallen, went away.  I did Bible Study and came out 90 minutes later to see Eric waiting.  My heart fell – I was too tired for another encounter.  But Eric approached me with his hand outstretched and a smile.  “Here, Rev.” he said, “I begged $100 and you can have $50!”  (It was the equivalent of about 50p.)

I’ve never forgotten that episode and what it taught me about helping people – it’s all about relationship.  It’s not a one-way street of me doing something for someone else.  As we help others we are ourselves helped.  It’s not always as stark as in the story I’ve just shared, but John Wesley’s point is that God uses others as a channel of grace, helping us as we help them.

Use your time in prayer today to bring to mind encounters you’ve had with others as you’ve tried to be kind.  Have you been changed by those encounters?

I offer you the image below – a gift to me some years ago – as a symbol of giving, of kindness.  Also, some words from a well-known hymn.  Think about those words – the second half of the verse as well as the first:

Brother, sister, let me serve you;
let me be as Christ to you;
pray that I may have the grace to
let you be my servant too.

Has this time in lockdown caused you to rethink how you might use your time and resources when restrictions are lifted?  Is there anything you can do to help others even now?

 

 

 

 

Today’s thoughts are provided by Rev. Cathy Gale

You can download a copy of these prayers here. 

John Wesley encouraged the early Methodists to be engaged in what he called “Acts of Piety” and “Acts of Mercy”.  Acts of Piety were disciplines which he said were “means of grace” – practices in the life of the Christian through which God could channel this loving relationship called grace.  The practices included things like Prayer, Searching the Scriptures, Holy Communion and Fasting.  Today I want to focus on Prayer.

I found this candle in my Mum’s house when my sister and I were doing some sorting back in January.  If you look closely it says on it “Pray without ceasing”, a quotation from 1 Thessalonians 5:17.  What struck me was that it was still wrapped up in plastic!  It seemed to me to be a symbol of how we often hold this wonderful gift God offers us – prayer.  It’s full of power and potential, and yet we keep it wrapped in plastic, as if keeping it for a special occasion!

          Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear
          All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Wesley’s idea of prayer as a means of grace is that it is first and foremost about relationship with God, a relationship that God wants with us.  So today, as you reflect (perhaps using this image of an unlit candle) I invite you to think about these things:

  • How gracious is God’s offer of prayer in the place of worry and anxiety!
    At this anxiety-ridden time, we don’t have to know what words to say, we just need to trust that God is listening.

  • How amazing is the truth that in prayer we meet with the living God – the One who made us and the whole universe!

  • How transforming might prayer be if we would listen as well as speak?

So pause, light your candle (not necessarily literally), and relax in God’s presence.  You are praying.

Today’s thoughts are provided by Rev. Cathy Gale

You can download a copy of these prayers here. 

May is a significant month in the life of the Methodist Church as we remember the “Aldersgate Experience” of John Wesley which transformed his life and began the movement which became Methodism.  There are lots of ways in which we feel restricted during this time of lockdown, but for many of us an opportunity which has emerged has been more time for reflection and prayer.

I’ve embarked on an online course delivered by Wesley House, Cambridge entitled “Growing in Grace: Exploring the Wesleyan Way”.  On Wednesday the course leader, the Revd. Dr. Andrew Stobard, gave this really simple definition of grace:

Grace is a relationship initiated by God, a relationship that exists because God wants it to.

I invite you today to ponder that definitionin your own life and the life of our world.

I offer this image as an aid for your reflection on grace.  The dandelion head (here, amazingly captured in a paperweight) – so fragile on the one hand, and yet able to explode into new growth! Could this describe our relationship with God through grace – so much potential for growth and transformation?

Use your time in prayer today to thank God for grace in your life and bring the world and its needs before God.

Today’s thoughts are provided by Rev. Delyth Liddell, Coordinating Chaplain at Cardiff University

You can download a copy of these prayers here.

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Psalm 46:1

Today is the 75th Anniversary of VE Day and many of us will have been expecting to commemorate with street parties and church services.  Instead, unless we are keyworkers, we find ourselves at home, listening to the Queen’s speech at 9am, taking part in the two minute silence at 11am and raising a toast to the heroes of WWII at 3pm with the words, “To those who gave so much, we thank you.”

The day the guns fell silent in Europe was indeed a day of celebration, although the war still raged for some time in Asia and the Pacific.  So today we remember and give thanks for those who gave their lives in times of war, whilst also being aware of the troubling time that we find ourselves in.  These words of Jesus remind us that our peace is found in Jesus:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
John 14:27

So today, I invite you to pray:

  • For those in the Armed Forces, many still in war zones around the world, and others helping out with the global pandemic.

  • For those on the front line of our current crisis, the doctors and nurses who put their lives on the line to care for the ill and dying.

  • For those who return from active service wounded, physically and mentally, and for those struggling with their mental health during this pandemic.

  • For those who have lost loved ones, through war or in this present time.

  • For those who toiled on the home front, in the fields and factories during the war effort; and the many key workers in shops and providing deliveries throughout our land.

  • For the Methodist Wales Synod, as we conclude the 15 months of prayer across Wales as a time of prayer for our church.

As Jesus offers peace, so we pray for the peace of this world,
peace among nations,
peace to the church,
peace within our communities,
peace within our homes
and peace in our hearts;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Act of Commitment

Let us pledge ourselves anew to the service of God and our neighbours: that we may help, encourage and comfort others, and support those working for the relief of the needy and for the peace and welfare of the nations.

Lord God our Father,
we pledge ourselves to serve you and all humankind,
in the cause of peace,
for the relief of want and suffering,
and for the praise of your name.

Guide us by your Spirit;
give us wisdom;
give us courage;
give us hope;
and keep us faithful now and always.
Amen.

O Lord our God,
as we remember, teach us the ways of peace.
As we treasure memories, teach us to hope.
As we give thanks for the sacrifices of the past,
help us to make your future in this world,
until your kingdom come.
Amen.