24-7 Prayer (2012)

This past week we had another time of 24-7 prayer at church.

24 hours a day for a week there was someone in our prayer room, keeping watch like the watchmen of Jerusalem, worshiping and interceding without ceasing. (Well, almost. I think we lost a few hours on Tuesday afternoon, but, you know, near enough).

The week arrived at the perfect time for me. There’s been all sorts going on in my head and my heart in the past month but it’s been one of those situations where it just seems to big to actually pray about, when you don’t know where to start. So to have a week where I was “forced” to come before God with it all was amazing.

Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.
(Exodus 33:11 ESV)

The week was like a crazy journey for me. Every time I went in to the room it felt like God was showing me the next step along the way.

It started with just seeking Him, asking that He would meet us all like He met Moses. Then I spent a couple of hours reading through Song of Songs and just catching something of God’s love for the church and for me individually.

You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride;
you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes,
with one jewel of your necklace.
How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride!
(Song of Solomon 4:9-10 ESV)

Then I was drawn to consider the person of Jesus and his work on the cross. I’ve been struggling with this for some time, wrestling with what precisely took place there, what it achieved and how. I looked particularly at the sacrificial practices of the Old Testament and the language used around Christ in the book of Hebrews, then to the more well known passages in Paul’s writings. It was good just to sit with these things for a while, to let the scripture settle in my head and grasp something of it all just a little more firmly.

My next slot focused more on how I see myself, how God sees me and the discrepancy between the two. But then on Thursday, I realised how much my prayers and my whole God focus had been about me in the past few months. Even when I had been trying to focus on God it had been for my satisfaction, understanding and fulfillment. It was time to return to intercession, to standing in the gap, to praying on behalf of others, because in that place we gain a unique understanding of who God is.

If we fully comprehend who God is, intercession and asking Him for things will be our natural response. When we realise that His character is not a static one, that He is more than power and glory, that He is also love and justice, that He is active, we should no longer only want to praise His divine attributes but should also feel compelled to ask Him for change and transformation. As we do so, because intercession is not one way but changes us too, we understand more of who God is and praise Him all the more for it!

To finish our week we went up to the Crags (the cliffs that over look the city) and prayed for it all. I wondered as we walked up there how many others had gone before us. How many thousands of people, in hundreds of years, have climbed that hill and prayed over our city? What a mighty cloud of witnesses! And we continue to build on their work, in prayer and action.

I’m sad that the week is over, but excited to see where the fruits of it lead us as a church in the coming months. God is on the move.

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An Advent Scrapbook

Having exams immediately before Christmas really makes you understand the “waiting” aspect of advent. You’re longing for that moment when you walk out of an exam hall, finally free and able to relax again. And this semester has been so relentless that it genuinely was the first relief I’ve felt from that pressure for almost thirteen weeks. It would be a serious understatement to say that I was happy!

I want to share with you some things I’ve been dwelling on this advent, some things that have made the meaning of it all really come alive for me.

Mamamonk has been posting a series of poems for the season but my favourite is definitely this one: Darkness. I think it captures beautifully the humanity of the birth, the messiness of it that we don’t see in our carols and lessons.

Sarah Bessey has also posted a beautiful piece over at Deeper Story about the messy humanness of the incarnation: Incarnation

But we keep it quiet, the mess of the Incarnation, because it’s just not church-y enough and men don’t quite understand and it’s personal, private, there aren’t words for this and it’s a bit too much.  It’s too much pain, too much waiting, too much humanity, too much God, too much work, too much joy, too much love and far too messy…

The guys over at 24/7 Prayer have been posting prayer spaces videos all through advent for daily reflection. I particularly enjoyed last week’s ones on Joy and looking at both Mary and Simeon’s songs of praise in Luke.

And finally, another wee video that beautifully portrays the humanity of this whole Christmas thing.

So there you have my advent-y scrapbook. Somehow  the whole thing seems more real to me this year, more mystical and wonderful. Jesus came, he is here still and I love it!

Scriptorium

Today I spent a couple of hours in the prayer room in the city centre (http://www.247prayeraberdeen.org/).

It was great. Just to take a some time out and focus entirely on God – something that has been missing in my life recently.

The first station is the Scriptorium, where people are encouraged to copy out a passage of scripture so that by the end of the two weeks there will be copies of Genesis, Isaiah and the Psalms fully handwritten by the people of Aberdeen.

I love this idea! I sat down with Isaiah and started at the middle of chapter 62 where the previous person had left off. This is a brilliant way of making yourself really read what the Scripture says. As you write you can’t just brush over parts or rush through bits, each and every word must run through your mind and you are forced to consider the implications of each sentence.

A couple of verses in particular stood out for me, Isaiah 62:10-12 (The Message):

Walk out of the gates. Get going! 
   Get the road ready for the people.
Build the highway. Get at it! 
   Clear the debris, hoist high a flag, a signal to all peoples!
Yes! God has broadcast to all the world: 
   “Tell daughter Zion, ‘Look! Your Savior comes,
Ready to do what he said he’d do, 
   prepared to complete what he promised.'”
Zion will be called new names: Holy People, God-Redeemed, 
   Sought-Out, City-Not-Forsaken.

I really felt the need to pause over these verses and felt that God was speaking to me about the Church of Scotland and the events of the past week. 

My initial reaction to the outcome of Saturday’s debate was shock, which became anger and then pain. For more than a moment I considered walking away from the CoS when it came to finding a new church in September. It seemed that God had abandoned us; and we – the CoS – had certainly abandoned him. I couldn’t understand why God would let such things happen and was ready to jump on the Fellowhip of Confessing Churches/ Free Church move band wagon. 

But in these verses God has given me hope.

Jesus told Peter that he would build the Church “upon this rock I will build my church and all the powers of hell will not conquer it” (Matt 16:18). God keeps His promises, always. And, even though it might seem that the complete opposite is happening, God will not let his church be conquered. He will return, He will bring justice, He will redeem the church that now seems so forgotten. It is not forsaken.

And only He can rescue it: not us, never us. Ephesians 16:12 says: “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” We can’t win that battle and we certainly won’t have victory in the war. Our task is to stand firm. As we studied Revelation over the past few months this came up time and again: God’s people didn’t go on the attack but were called to be faithful and maintain integrity:

  • Revelation 3:8 You have little strength yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me.
  • Revelation 12:17 And the dragon was angry at the woman and declared war against the rest of her children – all who keep God’s commandments and maintain their testimony for Jesus.
  • Revelation 13:10 God’s holy people must endure persecution patiently and remain faithful.

We are told to prepare the road and raise the flag – to show the way to Jesus, and make sure His name is declared and God’s Word lifted high within this land.

So, in three verses and twenty minutes, God said all that!

What’s He said to you in the past few days?