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.

SF2011: Spiritual Warfare

Something we’ve been working through/with a lot in the past couple of weeks has been the concept of spiritual warfare.

It says in Ephesians 6:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places”.

Some of my friends have felt under serious spiritual attack with terrible nightmares and feeling of fear and heaviness. We/they have met people on the streets in whom something much darker than drugs or mental illness has been going on.

This is something which I feel was never really spoken about very much when I grew up in the church. And whilst I think it spoken of more in Edinburgh, it still isn’t a major focus or concern among many of my friends. I think this is probably the reason that I have a far more blase attitude towards it all.

We’ve come to realise this week that focusing on it doesn’t help anyone. In fact, it’s exactly what the devil wants: for us to take our eyes off Jesus and look at him instead.

Jesus says in Luke 10:19-20 “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” This is how we combat satan: we refuse to give him any credit and continue to worship God and give him all the glory he is due. We have to acknowledge that satan is present, be aware of his tactics for maintain our focus completely on the only one who is truly deserving. Because God and satan are not equal forces of good and evil which balance each other out. God is a T-Rex to satan’s ant; God is completely in control, sovereign and powerful over Satan, whom he created. It’s not an equal match because God has an overwhelming victory.

When things got really bad on Wednesday we spent the evening praying, partly against satan but primarily worshiping God and thanking him for all he was doing in and through the youth. Something changed that night and it transformed the remainder of the week.

SF2011: Walking the City

On Thursday we walked the length on San Francisco.

A route something like this but longer: Map.

Suffice to say, I’m still in pain!

It was wonderful to see so much of the city and to experience all its different characters. Each neighbourhood is so unique, they’re like their own little towns. And to see the contrast between them, even as you walk only one block. There is such diversity in this amazing city. We walked and we prayed: or communities, churches, individuals. For God to bring revival in a city that is only 2% Christian. If it was it’s own country, it would be considered unreached. They think they don’t need Him but they don’t realise He is already here.

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I love this city. The architecture. The atmosphere. The people. I fear that Barcelona’s position as favourite world city may be in danger.

Martin Luther King, Jr: Lent (2)

Another post I contributed to our Lenten Prayer Group’s blog.

Today is the anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. Killed in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4th 1968, King had been a leader in the American civil rights movement for thirteen years, advocating non-violent resistance to racism and segregation. In his last few years of life, his focus had shifted to ending poverty and stopping the Vietnam war. Whilst I don’t agree with everything he ever said or did, I can’t deny the legacy he has left: inspiring non-violent resistance to injustice around the world to this very day.
Below is an excerpt from one of the last sermons he gave before his death, on February 4th 1968, in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Drum Major Instinct

I know a man—and I just want to talk about him a minute, and maybe you will discover who I’m talking about as I go down the way (Yeah) because he was a great one. And he just went about serving. He was born in an obscure village, (Yes, sir) the child of a poor peasant woman. And then he grew up in still another obscure village, where he worked as a carpenter until he was thirty years old. (Amen) Then for three years, he just got on his feet, and he was an itinerant preacher. And he went about doing some things. He didn’t have much. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. (Yes) He never owned a house. He never went to college. He never visited a big city. He never went two hundred miles from where he was born. He did none of the usual things that the world would associate with greatness. He had no credentials but himself.

. . .

Nineteen centuries have come and gone and today he stands as the most influential figure that ever entered human history. All of the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned put together (Yes) have not affected the life of man on this earth (Amen) as much as that one solitary life. His name may be a familiar one. (Jesus) But today I can hear them talking about him. Every now and then somebody says, “He’s King of Kings.” (Yes) And again I can hear somebody saying, “He’s Lord of Lords.” Somewhere else I can hear somebody saying, “In Christ there is no East nor West.” (Yes) And then they go on and talk about, “In Him there’s no North and South, but one great Fellowship of Love throughout the whole wide world.” He didn’t have anything. (Amen) He just went around serving and doing good.

This morning, you can be on his right hand and his left hand if you serve. (Amen) It’s the only way in.

. . .

If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. (Yes) And every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize—that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards—that’s not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school. (Yes)

I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others. (Yes)

I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody.

I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. (Amen)

I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. (Yes)

And I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. (Yes)

I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. (Lord)

I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity. (Yes)

Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. (Amen) Say that I was a drum major for peace. (Yes) I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. (Yes) I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. (Amen) And that’s all I want to say.

(Read/Listen to the whole sermon here: http://bit.ly/4nxh9, our extract starts at 30:46)

May we be able to say to the Lord that we tried to love and serve humanity, by His grace.

Lent (1)

A group of us who meet for prayer every Tuesday morning at New College are contributing daily to a kind of prayer blog on Facebook. This was my contribution on Monday:

I really like the simplicity of this video. I would let it speak for itself, and would recommend watching it before reading my thoughts, but there are just a couple of things I wanted to mention which stand out for me as I watch it.

I like the humanity of Jesus in these pictures.
I like the idea that he tries to amuse himself in the desert with things like kicking rocks and chasing chickens.
I like that he then starts to notice little things like flowers, birds, stones.
I like that we can see his pain and anguish as life in the desert becomes more and more trying.
I like that he seeks some kind of relief or refuge.
I like that he faces the devil and overcomes him with one shout.
I love that he’s back.

Jesus was in the desert on a journey and during lent we remember that. It’s not about a static state of asceticism but about journeying closer to God.

Which image do you most closely relate with at this moment in your journey?

Order and Spontaneity

(Image: John)

We must be careful in all our talk about liturgical prayer not to rule out the spontaneous moves of the Spirit. Just as liturgical traditions have much to offer us by way of roots, the charismatic and Pentecostals have much to offer us in zeal  and passion. Tradition and innovation go together in God’s kingdom. Jesus was Jewish. He went to synagogue “as was his tradition” and celebrated holy days such as Passover. But Jesus also healed on the Sabbath. Jesus points us to a God who is able to work within the institution and order, a God who is too big to be confined.

God is constantly colouring outside the lines. Jesus challenges structures that oppress and exclude, and busts through any traditions that put limitations on love. Love cannot be harnessed.

Liturgy is public poetry and art. You can make beautiful art by splashing paint on a wall, and you can also make art with the careful diligence of a sculptor. Both can be lovely, and both can be ugly. Both can be marketed and robbed of their original touch, and both have the potential to inspire and move people to do something beautiful for God. So it is with worship. More important than whether something is old or new, winsome or classic is whether it is real. The Scriptures tell us to “test the spirits”, and the true test of the spirit of a thing is whether it moves us closer to God and to our suffering neighbour. Does it have fruit outside of our own good feelings? Beauty must hearken to something beyond us. It should cause us to do something beautiful for God in the world.

– Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Enuma Okoro, Common Prayer, (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2010) p.175-176

Praying for Church Unity

Well, after tuesday’s dabble in Eastern Orthodox prayer, I have since partaken in Episcopalian, Community Church Edinburgh-ish and Roman Catholic prayer.

I have been LOVING it!

But the weirdest thing is that they’re all very similar . . .

I think it’s because of the services that I’ve been to (I missed the Salvation Army one on Monday and the Church of Scotland congregation goes tomorrow) but still, it’s quite eye opening to see how same-y we are. Every service has involved some kind of written/textual liturgy, using much of the same language. We’re all seeking to praise God, we all speak about Jesus with the same reverence, we all respect Scripture as God’s word. It can be difficult to understand, when we’re able to come together like this, why we’ve bothered separating in the first place! And if not that, at the very least, why we make such a big deal of it all the time and are desperate to make sure we’re not confused with that group of Christians, or that church over there.

Basically, we’re all part of one family, one body, and I think it’s time we started acting like it a little more. I really think churches should be sharing resources, and skills, and people. There’s no point in us all individually aiming for the same thing (the glory of God and to share the gospel in our community) and climbing over each other to do it. If we worked together, with our different ideas, strengths and heritages to support us, we’d be far more effective. Churches such as mine, which are larger and younger, in particular, should be doing more to support the older and smaller congregations. One of my favourite things about this week has been praying with more elderly members of the community, whose faith is just so inspiring. There’s so much we could learn from them and they would be so grateful of a little help in their churches from us.

I appreciate that half an hour meetings are perhaps not sufficient to show up the differences in our theologies, but surely the fact that they can show how unified we actually are says a lot more?

Oh, and I now have this odd desire to attend a quaker meeting at some point. Anyone volunteering to come with?

Common Prayer

One of the wonderful gifts I was given for Christmas (amongst many pairs of socks and thermal under-layers) was Common Prayer:

Written by Shane Claiborne (who I’m sure you remember I am a bit of a fan of), Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (quite like him too) and Enuma Okoro ( who I’m afraid I’d never heard of  but who I’m sure I would like) it’s pretty much what it says on the cover there: “A liturgy for ordinary radicals”.

Instead of following the standard 3 year plan of the traditional Book of Common Prayer this follows a one year cycle with prayers for morning, noon and night. They’ve used prayers and songs from all kinds of traditions and included saints days for all kinds of heroes of the faith. And at the end of every month there’s a little “Becoming the Answer to our Prayers” idea box.

I often get accused of being all about “mixing it up” in worship and getting away from tradition – in Aberdeen at least, the folks in Edinburgh probably think I’m pretty conservative! – so when I mentioned this to friends they were a little shocked that I’d be enthusiastic about something that is so structured. Yes, I love the idea of worship taking many forms and being a little spontaneous but I also think there is something incredible about a rhythm of prayer and breathing life into prayers spoken centuries ago and joining with brothers and sisters around the world in a common prayer. Liturgy is an amazing heritage which, in the Church of Scotland and many other congregations, we have forgotten about but it is most definitely one of the powerful forms that worship can take.

I’ve used it a little already and I’m really looking forward to using it once life resumes some kind of order again.

 

 

The Big Silence (2)

So, after watching The Big Silence, I decided to build some silence-ness into my everyday life.

Twenty minutes a day sounded a little pathetic but enough to be getting on with. I’d take myself off the New College sanctuary on the days I was there, or just sitting on my bed when I wasn’t, and just sit.

No music. No Bible. No thinking. No praying.

It’s really tricky.

Granted, by the end of the week twenty minutes didn’t seem so long but not thinking of anything is just so hard. I haven’t realised before just how full of junk my thoughts and life are. Stopping and doing “nothing” is near impossible when there appears to be so much to do. Whether I’m thinking about work, or what to cook for dinner, or singing that song that I only know two lines from but can’t get out of my head – there’s always something there to distract me from the nothingness. And then I start thinking about thinking about  nothing and focussing on that fills my thoughts instead. I think this is going to take some practice.

Yet, every time I come away from my twenty minutes, I feel more peaceful. More joyful. Like I have a little more perspective on life. I haven’t been hearing any voices yet, but I do think that God does something in my heart every time I intentionally just sit with Him.

Have you tried “the silence” yet? How’s that going for you?

The Big Silence

If you haven’t seen it yet I would seriously recommend taking some time out to watch The Big Silence.

It’s a tiny wee mini series following 5 (lay) people as they explore the importance of silence within the Monastic tradition.

It’s really challenging. I never take time out in silence. I’ve been getting a kind of cabin fever these past few weeks: feeling an inexplicable need to get out of Edinburgh, longing for the beach or to be up a hill somewhere, but I think that actually I’ve just been missing silence. Life has been so hectic and crammed full of things that even days off and times of rest come with things to do “whilst resting”. Even this past week, in the 24-7 prayer room at church, I’ve noticed that I have to put a CD on in the background and feel like I have to be writing and reading lots. There is no silence any more.

So, during my 9am prayer slot yesterday (the most civilised hour of prayer yet, I might add), I just sat, in silence for about 45 minutes. It wasn’t easy. My brain is so full of junk that I just kept getting caught up in thoughts of busyness but there was, at least, a sense of peace, of stillness. And those 45 minutes flew by.

The best thing about the programme is that all five of the volunteers, only one of whom had faith before beginning the process, were met by God. All. Five.

I’ve always been a firm believer in the still small voice of God. The one that wasn’t in the earthquake or the storm or the fire but in the silence afterwards (1 Kings 19). So I’ve resolved to build more silence into life. More listening, less talking.

I need . . .

I need to be led by you.

I need my heart to be moved by you.

I need my soul to be made clean by your prayer.

I need my will to be made strong by you.

I need the world to be saved by you and changed by you.

I need you for all those who suffer, who are in prisonin dangerin sorrow.

I need you for all the crazy people.

I need your healing hands to work always in my life.

I need you to make me, as your Son, a healer, a comforter, a savior.

I need you to name the dead.

I need you to help the dying cross their particular river.

I need you for myself, whether I live or die.

I need to be your monk and your son.

It is necessary.

Amen.

(Thomas Merton, Journals, July 17, 1956, III46-47)

HT: Anne @ Flowerdust

Franciscan prayer of discomfort

May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live from deep within our hearts. Amen.

May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom and peace. Amen.

May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection,starvation and war, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy. Amen.

May God bless us with just enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done. Amen.

And the Blessing of God, who Creates, Redeems and Sanctifies, be upon us and all whom we love and pray for this day, and forever more. Amen.

A liturgy of sorts

Based on the idea that newness of life is possible in Christ and a few verses from Romans 8, I wrote this in the prayer room at church this evening. (In a group, the bold would be said by everyone, the not bold by the leader)

Christ is risen

Hallelujah!

Christ is risen

Hallelujah!

Risen that we may live

Hallelujah!

Risen that we may have life

Hallelujah!

Christ is risen

He is risen indeed

In Him new life is found

He makes all things new

We live in Him

We live in Him

Who releases us from sin

We live in Him

Who makes hearts new

We live in Him

Who heals our wounds

We live in Him

Who wipes away our tears

We live in Him

Who controls all things

We live in Him

Who works best through weakness

We live in Him

Who who’s love we can’t escape

We live in Him

Who call us His children

The spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you

You did not receive the Spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

Abba! Father!

We cry to you:

Renew us we pray

Abba! Father!

We cry to you:

Fill us with your Spirit

Abba! Father!

We cry to you:

Set us free

Abba! Father!

We live by you

Christ is risen

We rise with Him

Christ is risen

Hallelujah!

Prayers and Tunes

I wanted to point you, once again, in the direction of the Northumbria Community’s fantastic resource, their Daily Office.

This beautiful prayer below is the Compline prayer of a Tuesday night and was inspired by St. Cuthbert:

I will lie down and sleep in peace
for You alone, Lord,
make me dwell in safety.

O God, and Spirit, and Jesu, the Three,
from the crown of my head, O Trinity,
to the soles of my feet mine offering be.
Come I unto Thee, O Jesu, my King –
O Jesu, do Thou be my sheltering.

My dear ones, O God, bless Thou and keep,
in every place where they are.

* Whoever has chosen to make
the shelter of the Most High their dwelling place
will stay in His over-shadowing.

* He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
He is my God, and I am trusting Him.

* He will rescue you from the traps laid for your feet,
and save you from the destroying curse.

* His faithful promises are your armour.
You need no longer be afraid of any terror by night,
or the death-arrow that flies by day.

* The Lord Himself is your refuge;
you have made the Most High your stronghold.

* Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe,
for You are my crag and my stronghold.

* How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake, I am still with You.

I will not lie down tonight with sin,
nor shall sin
nor sin’s shadow
lie down with me.

O God of life, this night,
O darken not to me Thy light.
O God of life, this night,
close not Thy gladness to my sight.
O God of life, this night,
Thy door to me, O shut not tight,
O God of life, this night.

* Be it on Thine own beloved arm,
O God of grace,
that I in peace shall waken.

* Jesu, Son of Mary!
my helper, my encircler.
Jesu, Son of David!
my strength everlasting.
Jesu, Son of Mary!
my helper, my encircler.

The peace of all peace
be mine this night
+ in the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

I needed that prayer last night. I can’t explain why it fitted so well but it was as though it was straight from my own heart. I feel a little guilty reproducing it here (i.e. without permission) so would love for some of you to explore the rest of the Offices.

I also discovered last week (thanks to Pamela at dance workshops) some new music. It’s a guy called Shawn McDonald who is another acoustic-y, folk-y vibe. I’m not allowed to embed the videos here but if you follow the links below you can watch, listen and learn to love on YouTube

All I Need

Open Me