2017 YEAR OF PRAYER -
(on one Sunday service each month in each Pastrow church)
March: What is prayer?
April: What's stopping us praying?
May: What does Jesus teach us about prayer?
June: What do we learn about prayer from the Epistles?
July: A case study of an Old Testament prayer
September: Recap on March -
October: Prayer disciplines
November: Prayer, the Pastrow mission and the 2018 Year of Discipleship
December: Praying into the themes of Advent
Pastrow Benefice Year of Prayer 2017
(Archived Page for information)
Year of Prayer 2017 Previous Month Teachings
Please click on the month to read the teachings.
The early Christians were a praying community. Evidence of this is found in both the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles (or letters). The pioneers of Christianity were Jews of course and they would have been seen as a movement within Judaism. Therefore it is to be expected that their prayer life would have been a mixture of ancient and modern. They kept Jewish observances for prayer, together with a freer, more joyful prayer time inspired by the Holy Spirit.
So they continued with the traditional ways of worship and prayer, as well as finding new paths. A simple example of this is in Acts 10 when Peter, while staying in a house in the port of Joppa, went on to the roof top to pray at noon -
The prayers of a bishop have no 'added value' over those of the lowliest, humblest Christian soul. We know God looks upon the heart rather than anyone's status, but the church still finds it hard to put that truth into practice. St Paul had no such difficulty. Most of his letters begin with thanksgiving and prayers for those to whom he is writing, and he often requests their prayers for himself. A few examples: Romans 15.30-
In 1 Timothy 2.1-
Inspiring, but far from comfortable, are Paul's words in 1 Thessalonians 5.16-
We may view the early church through rose-
In Chapter 1 of John's first letter he writes about pretences and our need to own up to sins so that we can know true forgiveness. In the next chapter he reminds us that Jesus pleads on our behalf. Hebrews 7.25 tells us that Jesus intercedes for us, and Paul in Romans 8 writes of the Holy Spirit always helping us in our prayers and witness.
So what do we learn about prayer from the Epistles? Some really practical advice about praying on our own, with others and for others; we are part of a worldwide praying community; the essential role of the Holy Spirit in our prayers; the need to pray for strength to resist attacks of the devil; and, most importantly, the example of all the Epistle writers, ordinary humble men, in the way they prayed for those they wrote to. We should for ever be encouraged by the witness and teaching of those 'prayer warriors'. Their letters are the word of God; they are written to us and for us, each one of us. Let us learn from them and also follow their authors' examples. Praise the Lord!
JULY – JEREMIAH, AN OLD TESTAMENT PRAYER WARRIOR
Most committees have one, but they are also found elsewhere. It's the person who asks the awkward question just when we think a decision is about to be made. It could be a question no one had thought about, or no one had raised because we were not sure of the answer or, worse still, were worried about the implications. We have to accept that some people rather enjoy being awkward! Although Jeremiah was not that person, he certainly knew how to ask uncomfortable questions. Far from enjoying this role, at times he complained to God that he had been given the job of a prophet. He did not relish being a member of the awkward squad!
Jeremiah was born in about 650 BC in the village of Anothoth, a few miles from Jerusalem. His father, Hilkiah, was a priest at the shrine there. Of all the prophets none was so critical of the outward observances and ceremonies of worship, particularly in the temple at Jerusalem. In Chapter 7 of the book Jeremiah we can read just how great was the gulf between the temple worship and the conduct of those who participated. Verse 11 'Do you think my temple is a hiding place for robbers?' was, of course, quoted by Jesus in what we call 'the cleansing of the temple'. He was highly critical of those in authority who acted unjustly and also of false prophets who were happy to say what people wanted to hear, rather than proclaiming the truth. Such a stance did not make him popular, but there was also a degree of respect for him because many recognised that he was a prophet called by God..
His calling came when he was very young (Jer 4.4-
So what can we learn from Jeremiah, way back in the Old Testament, in our Year of Prayer? Well, here was a man who was honest to God about his thoughts and failings, honest with himself about himself, and honest in his dealings with others. His was a lonely ministry, but instead of being wrapped up in his own sufferings, he felt deeply for the sufferings of his people. Rather than being dependent on formal worship, his was a very personal religion. He was not ashamed of feeling depressed; 'Woe is me, my mother, that you have borne me' (Jer 15.10) was one of a number of such thoughts recorded. At times he thought of keeping quiet, but this gave him spiritual heartburn (Jer 20.9). People had to face the consequences for their actions, but God is good; he knows those who are just and 'the just shall live by his faith' (Jer 2.4). Jerusalem will be rebuilt and in time all nations shall seek peace and worship God.
It has been said of Jeremiah that no one was more convinced and sure of God whilst being so unsure of himself. We may say that prayer is talking with God; Jeremiah could do this quite freely in a way unknown before. Talking with – rather than to – God means listening to God, learning from God, and thereby having a worthwhile message to share with others. Jeremiah's very personal and honest relationship with God, his talking and his walking with God all helped to prepare the way for the coming of Jesus, a Deliverer more wonderful than Jeremiah could ever have anticipated.
Once again we are reminded of the link between our worship, our prayer and our life. How dependent we are on God's grace if we are to be honest disciples of Jesus; not like those who Robert Burns described in a poem:
'Their sighan, cantan, grace-
Perhaps Joseph Scriven effectively summed up Jeremiah's spiritual honesty, unfailing faith and wonderful example to us when he wrote the well-
'Jesus knows our ev'ry weakness – take it to the Lord in prayer'.