Tag Archives: Praying

God 52 – Week Seventeen (23/4/13)

24 Apr

First of all, an apology – things are a little flat out for me at the moment, and I’m really aware that I’m writing this about 30 hours than a lot of people expected it. Sorry. I’ll try not to let this happen again.

15-minutesDiscipline. It’s not a very nice word, is it? If you’re subject to it, then there’s likely to be some degree of pain or discomfort to you as a result; if you’re required to practice it, then you’re likely to be attempting something counter-cultural.

Because of course, we live in a world of short-cuts, short attention spans, and short tempers. We pace in front of the microwave; we get frustrated if BBC iPlayer takes too long to load. And in that cultural context, it’s sometimes hard to behave consistently. To return to the same behaviour, day after day, because doing so is good for us. It’s much more intuitive for us to flit around, to jump from one activity to the next, to follow distractions and pursue whatever interests us.

So regular, disciplined prayer is perhaps a different proposition in the age of distraction. In simpler times, with less things and individuals competing 24/7 for our attention, it was arguably easier to set aside regular time to pray and reflect (or maybe it was just difficult for other reasons). To do so today requires discipline; an effort of the will. So here’s this week’s challenge:

17: Pray for 15 minutes a day, at the same time for five days.

It’s a little exercise in discipline and consistency – but it also might yield some exciting results. This idea has slightly been stolen from Jackie Pullinger – and look what she’s achieved!

Pray about whatever you like, although I’d suggest you make it the same topic or situation.

We’re always on the look out for guest bloggers. If you’d like to write a guest post this week on disciplined prayer, please read our writing guidelines, then drop me an email.

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If we listen… by Frances Gabriel

25 Mar

One final guest blog on this week’s prayer challenge, as we prepare to share faith with our friends and family in the week ahead. In this post, Frances Gabriel gets honest about praying for opportunities.

FrancesGabrielIt started with a conversation in the kitchen, off the staff room. A throw-away line (from her) about my hair looking ‘religious, nun-like’ because I had it swept back from my face (bad hair day). And just like that, I’m into a conversation about God.

I pray for opportunities like this.  Well, actually, I don’t, because I don’t always think / remember. But I do always hope that if the opportunity arises, I will have the right words and the guts above all, to answer with the right words. As Peter says in his first letter: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” And then he continues: “but do this with gentleness and respect.”

We weren’t having a deep and meaningful conversation. Break time, with resources to prepare and people to talk to, as well as the obligatory cup of coffee, isn’t conducive to major conversations.  But I dared to admit that yes, I was someone who had a faith (she was amazed that anyone does) and when she followed up with a question about my background, I had a chance.  Not to give a full exposition.  But just a window onto a world that for her, where she is right now, offers a very different perspective from that of a purely secular worldview. I will pray for opportunities to build on this conversation next week.

I don’t want to make excuses.  I would love to have the confidence to just launch straight into a conversation about God.  But maybe what I did was enough.  Maybe the key thing is to be ready and to be listening.  Maybe that’s not earth-shattering – but it’s true nonetheless. If we listen, really listen, to those around us and hear what they are saying, pick up on the undercurrents – we can offer just the right amount that they are ready for.  And although I worry about how people will see me sometimes, yesterday I worried more about how she would see God through me.  But I know that God is big enough to cope with that Himself – all I have to do is speak and He’ll do the rest.

Still scary, though!

Frances Gabriel is a wife and mother of two, works in a school and attends both of her local churches – helping out with kids and music where she can.  She is far too obsessed with Les Miserables right now, regularly sings along to ELO and drinks too much coffee.

Sowing seeds, by Lynn McCann

25 Mar

We’re in the midst of a deep and profound challenge right now in the God52 community – as we pray for and then share the gospel with a friend or family member. Here Lynn McCann reflects on an important truth that this challenge has helped to remind her about, and on an amazing answer…

LynnMcannPraying for others is about sowing seeds; it’s God who makes them grow. Sometimes we don’t share the gospel out of fear of rejection, sometimes we do and there seems to be no response. Sometimes we do and the person seems enthusiastic at first but then falls away. Sound familiar? The parable of the sower tells us to expect this. Jesus knew that people would respond in different ways, but he also said that some seeds would fall on good soil. Yes! Some people will believe and follow him… that’s why we share the gospel, and who are we to say who will believe and who won’t? Often God surprises us.

Our church is having a mission week this week and when I saw the God52 challenge I was ‘challenged’ as I realised I had been procrastinating about inviting people to the week. I mean, it wasn’t even difficult, all I had to do was invite someone to an event – someone else was going to tell them the gospel. But like so many of us… I was held back by fear.

“What if they say ‘no’?”

I’d forgotten it is God who changes hearts to receive the gospel.

Anyway, a quick prayer ensued and then I took the easy way out and Facebook messaged a few friends asking them if they’d like to come to one of the evenings. One messaged back almost immediately – yes they would come.

This is a friend who two years ago I had invited to a gospel event, at which she had even responded with enthusiasm. But then she stopped coming to church and seemed to fall away because she was angry with God. Her family had suffered a real tragedy and she struggled to understand it in the light of God’s love and grace. So she seemed to have turned away.

I did not stop praying for her though, knowing that God is big enough to make the seed grow. I needed to wait and trust.

As I met her this week her face was full of light. She told me a wonderful story. This is what had happened…

The week before, her dog, which was such a part of the family, became seriously ill. The vet had told them to prepare for the worst.  Unable to console her youngest daughter, she had offered to pray with her.  Devastated they prayed, “Lord, please make our dog well and if you do we will go back to church.”

Well, the next morning she shook with fear as she rang the vet. Feeling certain the news would be bad she made sure her daughters were out of earshot.  The vet spoke to her with tears in his voice… “I can’t quite believe this, but when I came in this morning, your dog was standing up wagging her tail as if nothing was wrong at all!  She’s going to be ok!”

So, here was my lovely friend, back in church, hearing the gospel again. This time with a heart open and grateful to a God who did all the work and never let her go.  Thanks for challenging me, God52.

Lynn McCann is a wife, mum to two teenagers, and an ASD teacher who loves Jesus with all her heart. She blogs at http://includedbygrace.wordpress.com about faith, life, and sharing the gospel with people with learning disabilties and ASD.

Praying for my dad to come to faith – by a youth pastor

23 Mar

 

Another guest blog on this week’s challenge – to pray for someone who next week we’re going to share the gospel with. Today an anonymous youth pastor talks about the apparent unfairness of how God answers our prayers for friends and family…

dad homerGrowing up I used to look at the other Christian kids in church standing next to their dads in worship. His hand ruffling their hair, looking down with pride and silently mouthing ‘I love you.’ Then I would look up into the void where my Dad should have been, next to my Mum…

…but he wasn’t there, he was at home, watching telly.

You see, my dad isn’t a Christian. And this upsets me, I know that if he was attacked and killed by a gorilla that had escaped from a travelling circus, he would be in hell.

Its not without trying. My mum is one of the most faithful intercessor pray-ers I know and not a day goes by where she doesn’t pray for my dad’s soul. And I pray too, I pray that my dad becomes the man that God called him to be, to achieve full potential in Christ, to flourish under the undeserved grace we have been given.

But alas, nothing.

As I started university, I met this bloke. We had the same interests enjoyed a healthy banter over rival football teams and he quickly became my best friend. But he wasn’t a Christian and didn’t really get the whole faith thing. I remember uttering a prayer at a prayer meeting, ‘Thank you Lord for Simon, he’s a great friend and a really blessing, shame he’s not a Christian.’ Somehow this half-baked, whispered prayer, sent the Angel SAS into action and:

within 1 year he was serving in the youth group,

within 2 years, attending the soul survivor festival,

within 3 years regularly attending church,

within 4 years leading s small group

and in the 5th year I baptized him

So why is it that the half-baked whispered prayers for my friend should result in God moving, but the cries and pleads for my dad still go apparently unanswered?

I could give up, decide that my God has deemed my Dad to be a pointless cause. Yet Jeremiah 29:11 it says … ‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’

And that’s why I keep praying, I place my dad in that verse…

‘For I know the plans I have for your dad, declares the LORD, plans to prosper your dadand not to harm your dad, plans to give your dad hope and a future.’

So I wont stop praying, because one day I believe and I know, that the Angels will be having a massive party, the day I baptize my Dad.

The writer is a youth pastor in England. He wishes to remain anonymous.

What if it doesn’t work? by NinjaaMonk

21 Mar

Over the next two weeks, we’re praying for – and then preparing to share the gospel with – a non-Christian. In today’s guest post, blogger NinjaaMonk reflects on how a similar exercise didn’t quite work out as planned…

As a Christian this really is quite a scary prospect, praying for another person to find God. What if God asks you to do something really big like actually talk to this person about God? How on earth do you do that? How can you explain this feeling you have of total and all-encompassing love?

I’ve known people who have been so close to God that they have walked up to complete strangers and told them that God loves them and they need to find Him. My story is a little bit closer to home.

I have a colleague; he’s an ex-catholic, a nice guy, a man who constantly questions me about my faith and is happy to argue about the existence of God all day long.

I have prayed for this guy on and off for the last 18 months, because he has known God and I’d go as far as to say in his quiet moments he probably would accept there is some validity in God. But right now he has no relationship with God.

And God has tested me with this person, God has pushed my faith and knowledge just to reach out to this guy.

My biggest step came recently when I felt compelled to talk about grace to my colleague, hoping and praying it would have an effect. It did have an effect but not what I was expecting. His response was one of horror at the content of what I said, claiming it was angry, apocryphal (I had to look that word up) and deeply concerning.

I felt totally lost. In my belief God had given me this opportunity as a way to reach him – and it didn’t work. I was convinced my actions would lead him to God. However, we must remember in these moments that it isn’t about us or the other person – it’s about God.

I will pray this week for this man; I will ask God to reveal himself to him, to perform miracles in his life and to open his heart and mind. As I’m sure many of you will for your colleagues, friends and family.

My encouragement to you is this, pray and pray and pray again. Do what God asks you to do for those you know are not saved and leave the response and the outcome up to Him.

Because in reality their response isn’t for you to worry about.

Follow NinjaaMonk on Twitter @NinjaaMonk, or read his blog: http://ninjaamonk.wordpress.com

Prayer Stalking for Beginners, by Lucy Mills

4 Feb

In a final week 5 guest blog, writer Lucy Mills explains how she enjoys praying for others… often without them ever knowing she’s done it. 

lucy mills“She calls it stealth praying.”

My friend’s friend (always an awkward phrase) was very shy. She couldn’t walk up to people and talk about Jesus. So she prayed for them, behind their backs. Literally, sometimes, praying for the person sitting in front of her on the train or the bus. If I had to coin a phrase without stealing hers, I might, tongue in cheek, call it prayer stalking.

I’m rather taken with it.

I don’t drive, so spend a lot of time on buses. Sometimes I do what everyone does – stare out of the window, worry about some issue or another, wish I could get home more quickly.  But other times, I try praying by stealth.

Sometimes I pray a little for each person, if there are only a few of us. Sometimes I fixate on one – who has no idea that they are being thoroughly prayed for by some weird woman across the aisle. I pray generally at first, then start praying for this day, that they would be encouraged, protected and strengthened. That they would catch God-glimpses in unexpected places. The driver usually gets a good prayer-dousing.

Some people I ‘prayer stalk’ all the way off the bus, still praying for them as they slide from view, trudging along the pavement to whatever situation they are facing.

I have no idea what effect these prayers have, beyond the immediate. The immediate effect is that I begin to care about these people I have never met. When I’ve been praying for someone, it’s quite difficult not to smile at them when they walk past me or catch my eye.

They may think I’m mad. Or they may smile back.

It’s like holding a delicious little secret. I’ve been praying for you.

Praying for strangers can seem difficult. And I doubt that the boy listening to music behind me would appreciate my turning round, plucking out his earphones and intoning, “I’m going to pray for you, sonny boy.”

But seriously – praying in this way helps me to care. Because compassion isn’t on tap, is it? We don’t just manifest the fruit of the Spirit if we never engage with said Spirit or, to put it biblically, keep in step with Him. By praying in this way I rely on the Spirit to guide me. I can’t ‘pray intelligently’ as people like to say. I don’t know their hurts and their desires.  I don’t even know where they’re going.

But I know this – God loves them, and God knows them. And if the Spirit intercedes for them through my wibbly-wobbly prayers, then we are all blessed.

Lucy Mills is a freelance writer and member of the Magnet editorial team – an ecumenical Christian resources magazine.  Her website and blog can be found at www.lucy-mills.com.  She tweets as @lucymills. Her big passion is the book she’s writing, called ‘Forgetful Heart’ – looking at what it means to remember God in our daily lives, and confessing she’s not very good at it.

Watching and waiting, by Neil Chappell

3 Feb

Today’s guest blog sees a church minister explaining how he responded to this week’s challenge. Have you taken the plunge yet? If not, he offers an easy-to-replicate model…

NeilChappellI’m something of a Twitter addict. I’m fascinated by its potential, always looking for ways to harness its power. Some would call me sad (my son), some would call me a geek (my son again). But I believe it provides opportunities for Christians to witness to their faith and I’m all for that.

As I send out Tweets, communicating among churches and leaders in Oldham, I often use the hashtag #prayforoldham. I’m so sad that on Tweetdeck I have a column just to harvest Tweets with that hashtag, and for the last 6 months mine have been the only ones to show up. Quite depressing really. That is until this Monday.

When I opened Tweetdeck I got the shock of my life … there on the #prayforoldham timeline were 19 Tweets. What brought a smile to my face was that every single Tweet referred to the previous days FA Cup match between Oldham Athletic and Liverpool! Some from Oldham fans, some from Liverpool fans, some from Man United fans!

While still in a state of amusement, I received notification that the next #God52 weekly challenge had been posted. And what a challenge it was … Offer to pray for someone.

An hour later I made a tentative connection between my #prayforoldham experience and the weeks challenge. Why not offer to pray for those who prayed for Oldham? I dug out the list of 19 tweets, eliminated those in a foreign language or location, those perhaps not suitable and came up with six names. And to each one I tweeted…

Hope your prayer was answered… if you have another prayer request I’d be happy to pray for you. #prayforoldham

So I sit and wait. The offer made. I’ll respond if and when needed. First time I’ve ever done anything like this, and I’m excited and nervous too.

Opportunities are waiting for us. Opportunities to share the good news message. Opportunities to pray for others. Opportunities to usher in God’s kingdom. Opportunities to reflect God’s glory. Opportunities on Twitter, in our work-place, at the supermarket, at a football match, where we live. I must try to keep my eyes open and alert to the possibilities around me. Join me.

Neil Chappell is Minister at Greenacres Congregational Church in Oldham. He enjoys all things techie and helps out with Social Media and Website Development in the Congregational Federation. He blogs weekly at http://aweirdthing.wordpress.com and regularly tweets as @rev_neil.

How to pray for strangers, by Steve Bateman

2 Feb

Today’s guest post is one of the most exciting things we’ve been able to publish since this project began. If you’ve found this week’s challenge – to pray for a stranger – difficult, then read this: the testimony and advice of someone who I (Martin) know to be the real deal. May it challenge, encourage and inspire you, and leave you in no doubt that God can move powerfully through ordinary people just like you.

Steve_BatemanI love praying for strangers! I made a decision years ago that talking and praying for strangers is so weird. It’s awkward, embarrassing and culturally offensive.  Many of us feel like calling out “unclean, unclean” every time we do anything evangelistically.

I read a quote a number of years ago by Clint Thomas: ‘If I pray for 10,000 people and 10 of them get healed, I think it REALLY matters to those 10.’

I then made a decision to try and talk to people who are sick and who I feel God prompts me to pray for.

So I pretty much start off by trying to build a bit of rapport with people. People love talking about themselves, particularly if they are visibly injured or in pain. I often then say to people ‘I know this is weird but I’m a Christian and I’m wondering…’ or ‘I’ve been learning about praying for people for them to be healed, can I practice on you?’ This time of year I’ve noticed that there are lots of people walking on crutches. So I often say, ‘Have you injured yourself skiing?’  This then leads to various conversations either about their skiing accident or the other way they were injured.

The way I’ve got over this fear barrier of approaching complete strangers is asking myself a different question to ‘What if God doesn’t heal and what if I get it wrong?’ Instead I ask myself: ‘What if they are healed, and their lives are changed forever?’

Most people who I pray for are surprised and touched that someone would stop and care enough to pray, in my experience they don’t care if they do get healed or not. We’re often so worried about God not answering our prayers that we don’t step out and try. Surely that’s not our problem?

I have been practicing hearing from God what people’s names are and I’ve got it wrong so many times! I just apologise and say ‘Sorry, I thought you were someone else.’ All those times of getting it wrong are worth it for the times when I’ve got it right.

During the Olympic Games I arrived a couple of hours before our evening watching women’s hockey. As I stood on the bridge watching the highlights of the day on the big screen with the thousands of people all around me, I closed my eyes and had an image come into my mind of a man in a white T-shirt, jeans and blue hat, and the name ‘Tony’ popped into my head.

Having got used to these random promptings, I began looking for anyone matching that appearance. I waited there a few minutes and then closed my eyes again and really felt God’s presence with me and then feeling that I should go to the other side of the bridge.

When I got to the other side I saw a man who matched the description. With my heart racing, I approached him and his family and grandchildren and said:

‘Hi… Tony?’

He replied with a ‘Yes, how did you know my name?’ and the next few minutes with him was truly remarkable. I explained that whenever this happens to me it is because God wants to change the course of someone’s life, or because there was an illness or sickness.

He then asked his family to leave and then explained that he had just been diagnosed with bowel cancer and only him, his doctor and now I knew. We were both shocked that God had lead us together particularly as we were there with tens of thousands of people.

We prayed together, cried together and spoke quite candidly about faith in God and this was a moment in time that both of us would never forget. I released the power and the love of Jesus over him and we left each other happy at this sacred moment.

How to pray for people in your community:

1. Keep your eyes open while praying
2. Tell them how God feels about them (He loves them, He’s a good Father and wants to heal)
3. Tell the illness and pain to ‘Go in Jesus name’ as you believe that God has given you authority to heal the sick.
4. Encourage them to seek further advice either from a doctor or and invite them to church on Sunday/midweek groups.

The clouds don’t always part to reveal a choir of angels as people fall to their knees and ask what they must do to be saved! But don’t let that deter us from trying. Better to try and fail than to not try at all… even just for one person’s sake.

Steve Bateman and his family live in and love SW London and is he passionate about seeing people both physically and emotionally healed.  He believes that ordinary Christians can show people of faith and no faith an extraordinary God. He manages a community centre in an inner city estate which runs various projects for vulnerable families. He claims he almost became a professional golfer and still dreams that one day he will play for West Ham! Follow him on Twitter @Steve_Bateman

Dear God, Help. Amen. by Russ Wood

31 Jan

This week on God52, the challenge is to offer to pray for someone who isn’t a Christian.  In today’s guest blog, youth worker Russ Wood wonders about the ethics involved…

Russ God52 PhotoWhen I first read this week’s challenge, my thoughts were immediately directed towards the young people I work with. To explain my context, I’m a Christian youth worker who works for a Christian organisation. However, we don’t preach at our young people. We work to serve them with whatever their needs are, with an aim to make them more employable. Despite our lack of organised preaching, we find ourselves talking to them about Jesus a lot of the time.  They’d never go near a church; but they’re really interested in this ‘Jesus guy’. I hope I don’t sound proud when I say that it’s a privilege to be a part of it.

So when thinking about praying for people who aren’t Christians, I think of them. And with me being a relatively-inexperienced youth worker, I struggle with this question: Is it right for a youth worker to pray for young people who wouldn’t expect, never mind ask for, prayer?

The Christian in me says, Why is that even a real question?  It’s a no-brainer!  Everyone needs prayer!  Go for it!  Pray for EVERYONE: men, women, teenagers, children, dogs, cats, hamsters, cactus plants! If it’s got a pulse, it needs prayer! OK, I took that a bit far, but you get my point!

On the other hand, the youth worker in me asks: is it appropriate to pray for young people in your care? Does it blur or even violate boundaries? Am I risking my relationship with this young person by initiating my own agenda when they haven’t asked to be prayed for?

The Christian youth worker in me takes these two, mushes them together and creates a pulp that says, why does the prayer have to be such a big deal that it’s seen as risky? Prayer doesn’t have to be filled with long words and tiring clichés. Why can’t the prayer just be really simple?

The answer is of course that it can. I’m a big believer in simple prayer being as powerful as complicated prayer. If it wasn’t, then the prayers of children, young people, new believers, and the majority of Jesus’ ministry were barely effective at all – and I’m not convinced this is true.

If you’re anxious about praying for the person God gives you an opportunity with, then try this: Dear God.  Thank you that you are in charge.  Please help ____ with [insert situation].  Amen.

Nothing weird, nothing scary, but just as powerful. If the situation works out well, then they might see the link and attribute it to God’s intervention. It might even change their life forever. Now that’s worth a little step of faith to ask, Can I pray for you?

Russ Wood is a youth worker at Perth YMCA and also studies Youth & Community Work with Applied Theology at the International Christian College in Glasgow.  He blogs at russellwood265.wordpress.com, tweets @MrRussWood, and puts photographs onto russview.wordpress.com.

Sara Batts on praying for strangers

30 Jan

This week’s God52 challenge isn’t easy at all. In fact it’s pretty much an introvert’s nightmare – to ask a stranger if you can pray for them. In this week’s first guest post, newly-doctored librarian and researcher Sara Batts writes about the practical way in which she’s integrated morning prayer into her daily commute, and how that has naturally led her to pray for those she doesn’t know.

Sara on trainFor the past few months I’ve been doing something called #trainprayer in the morning. There are lots of people who commute and offer prayer via Twitter. I’m just one of them. Generally, this is on the 08:10 from Colchester to Liverpool Street, mostly from a seat, sometimes from the vestibule, always using the same Morning Prayer that everyone else is following. It’s an interesting feeling, being part of the stream of prayers at the start of each new day. As soon as I get on the train and get sorted I tweet out that I’m 10 or 15 minutes away, offering to take the concerns and celebrations of my Twitter followers to God that day. Some days, no-one answers. Other days I’m praying for train delays to fit them all in (not really, if anyone else from that train is reading this…)

I know very few of the people that share their issues and their joys, so most mornings I’m interceding on behalf of a stranger. It’s public, too – anyone on Twitter can see what I’m asked, anyone can see when I let the requester know it’s been done. I don’t like taking requests by direct message – I prefer this to be an open conversation for my own protection. After all, if you want private prayer Twitter isn’t the place to be asking for it.

I feel hugely privileged to be trusted with the concerns that are closest to people’s hearts. To be able to play some small part in their life with God. To follow progress of bail hearings, illnesses, job hunts, house moves and all the worries of life as I see new status updates or have repeat requests. Does it matter that I might never meet these people? I don’t think so. It doesn’t mean I care less, nor struggle to leave their concerns with the Lord and not carry them with me. Does it matter that sometimes I preface the offer to pray with warnings of grumpiness or inability to concentrate? I hope not, for if our prayers have always to be coherent and beautiful sentences I for one am doomed.

Sara Batts is a law librarian working in the heart of the City, ‘blessed’ with an hour’s commute from home. She has recently completed a PhD investigating how churches and church leaders use websites & social media (quite a lot the work for it done whilst commuting). Sara enjoys running, writing and real ale (separately) and is currently working out what to do with the rest of her spare time with no PhD to do. She’s been a Greenbelt speaker for the past two years as well as presenting her ideas from her thesis to anyone who’ll listen. Find her on Twitter at @DrBattyTowers or blogging at runninglife.wordpress.com.

If you’d like to write a guest blog on this subject, please read the guidelines here, then drop Martin an email.