Prayer: Sometimes I am busy being wrapped up in myself

I’m hoping to lead us today in a prayer of repentance. I’m going to pray it for myself, and I would ask you to pray with me where you feel it’s right to do so.

Let’s pray.

Lord, I am sorry for the times I have missed an opportunity to welcome someone to our church. Sometimes I am busy being wrapped up in myself, and sometimes I just don’t want to get over the social awkwardness. Starting today I will stop expecting someone else to do it and try to be part of a welcoming church. Please help me.

I am sorry too for the times I have missed someone in church’s need for help or comfort. Starting today I will be looking to help my brothers and sisters in this church in any way I can. Please show me how.

I am sorry for the judgements I have made about people in this church based on how they look or speak, or on what someone else has said. Starting today I will try to remember your passionate love for every person in this room, and show that love myself, expecting exciting and real relationships with the people here. Please stop me when I slip into wrong thoughts.

I am sorry for the ways I have turned against people in our church because of something real or perceived that they have done against me. Starting today I will remember the forgiveness you have given to me, and begin to forgive other people, with your help. Please show me who I need to forgive, and help me do it.

Lord, we as a church are sorry for the times when we have relied on our own strength. You have given us people with such gifts and talents – it is easy to think we can achieve your objectives for us if we just set our minds to it. In reality we can’t make a single step without total reliance on you. Starting today we will try to plan in total humility, never assuming we can do it ourselves. We need your help to do this – it is frightening to trust you – please teach us.

[Prayed at my church on 2009-02-15.]

Prayer for Zimbabwe, Nigeria, USA, DR Congo and ourselves in hard economic times

Lord please teach us how to pray. Please hear our prayers and respond in ways we can’t ignore. We ask you to change us.

We pray for the people of Zimbabwe. We ask that the cholera epidemic would be brought under control, and that you would guide and protect the people working to fight it. We pray for good government: we ask you to put trustworthy and wise leaders in place and guide them. We take this moment to pray for hope in Zimbabwe. Lord, please let us know if you want us to act to help this situation.

We pray for the people of Nigeria. We ask that the fighting between Christians and Muslims in Jos would end, and we pray that those who are harmed would show restraint and forgiveness in their response. We pray that the Christians involved in the situation would bring glory to you by the way they act. We ask that Christians and Muslims in the whole of the country would find a way to live together peacefully. We take this moment to pray for hope in Nigeria. Lord, please let us know if you want us to act to help this situation.

We pray for the people of the USA. We ask that your name would be glorified there. We pray for Barak Obama as he prepares to run the country. Please give him true wisdom, and guide and direct him. We pray that he would lead the world on a path of peace and reconciliation. We pray especially for the relationship between the West and the Muslim world, and ask that it would improve, and people would know that reconciliation comes from you. We take this moment to pray for hope in the USA. Please speak to us if you want us to take action.

Lord, it is hard to listen when we hear news from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It seems hopeless – how can people ever live peacefully after suffering the unspeakable violations that have happened and are still happening? Lord, we pray that you would put an end to it. We pray for safety for the people of Goma, and all the people escaping the fighting into Uganda and other places. We long for the day when the government is on your shoulders. We take this moment to pray for hope in Congo. Prince of Peace, let your will be done there. Please let us know if you want us to act to help this situation.

We pray for ourselves. Some of us may lose our jobs or income in the recession that is coming, and many of us are worried about what will happen to us. We take this opportunity to say that we trust you, and we will follow wherever you take us. We pray that you would provide for our needs, and we offer our lives as sacrifices to you. Please use us to tell people about the amazing hope there is when we follow you. Let’s take this moment to offer ourselves to God. Lord, show us what you want us to do.

[Prayed at my church on 2008-12-04.]

Prayer for Zimbabwe & DR Congo, marriage breakdown, church unity on difficult issues

Father, please teach us how to pray now, and throughout our lives. Please change us.

We pray for Zimbabwe. Please provide a peaceful and just outcome to the situation, providing safety, forgiveness and reconciliation between those who are divided, and a good and stable government. Lord, we know that Mugabe’s challenge that only you will remove him is child’s play to you. If it is your will, please take up that challenge. In the quiet we pray for Zimbabwe and ask you to show us if you want us to help.

We ask you Lord to provide help for those whose relationships are in trouble. Whether it’s with a husband or wife, parent or child, brother or sister, friend or family member, we pray for conviction about the need for healing. We ask that whenever they feel they have run dry you would provide new supplies of compassion, forgiveness and sacrifice. Please provide courage to try to repair these relationships, and hope that you can do it. Bring about reconciliation in these broken and damaged relationships, and provide the right people to help those in our church who are in this situation. In the quiet please show us which relationships we need to work on, and show us if our friends need help.

We pray for the people in our church and town who are lonely. We ask that those who don’t know you would get to know you and find friendship with you. We ask that you would provide people to be friends with everyone who is lonely. In the quiet we pray for lonely people, and ask that you would open our eyes to those around us who are in need of a friend.

We put in your hands the plans we are discussing for expanding our church buildings. We pray that our ambition to become a house of prayer would be fulfilled, and that through spending time with you we would hear from you about what we should do. Please never let us go the wrong way, but turn us back when we make mistakes. Please use us to bring people to you. In the quiet we ask for guidance for the future of our church.

Lord, we want to ask for your help in the disagreements going on in the Anglican church at the moment. We pray that the church will be united in choosing the right way forward on the issues of women in leadership and homosexuality. We especially pray for ourselves, and everyone involved in the debate, that your name would be glorified through our actions and words. Please show the good news of your love through us, even when we disagree. In the quiet we re-dedicate ourselves to demonstrating your love, and ask for unity among Christians.

Lord, we pray for those who are suffering mutilation, murder and rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We beg you to rescue them. We pray with them, using Psalm 13:

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me for ever? How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;
my enemy will say, I have overcome him, and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.

In the quiet we urge you to act, and ask you to speak to us about how we can help the people of the Congo.

[Prayed at my church on 2008-07-13.]

Prayer of repentance as a church, individuals and a country

Lord, please help us to pray now, and teach us how to pray.

Lord, we think you may be telling us as a church that we need to repent: to turn away from wrong things we are doing.

Some of us here may have a very clear idea of things we personally are doing wrong that we need to turn away from. For those of us who are trapped in habitual sins, or in cycles of harming someone else, or in harmful patterns of thought towards others, we pray that you would make repentance possible. Through that repentance we ask you to bring about real change and healing in our lives.

Some of us may not be clear about what sin we need to turn away from, either as individuals or as a church. We pray that you would reveal to us where we need to change. Particularly as a church, we ask that if this idea we have that you may be asking us to repent is right then please show us very clearly what we have been doing wrong, and give us the courage to speak about it, and to turn away from it.

In all this we know we need to trust in you with all our hearts, and not lean on our own understanding. Please cut through our rationalisations and excuses and reveal to us what is important to you.

Let’s take a moment to ask God to help us turn away from wrong things we are doing.

Lord Jesus, we are painfully aware of how far we fall short of your perfect plans for our lives. We throw ourselves on your mercy, and we take comfort in the promise that you speak to the Father in our defence. As we realise the depth of forgiveness we are asking from you, we see the need to forgive others in response.

Some of us here may need to forgive people who have hurt us. Some of us may need to forgive things that seem unforgiveable. Some of us may be caught in deep cycles of not forgiving. Some of us may be fooling ourselves that there is nothing to forgive. In each of those cases we are aware that without your help we can’t begin to forgive. Be generous with your help, Lord – what we ask is impossible, yet you can do it.

As a church, we also may need to forgive. Within the church there may be hurts or grudges we need to give up. We may need to forgive those who attack or scorn us for being Christians. Please help us to trust you to deliver justice for wrongs against you and us, and to follow your example of answering hate with love.

Let’s take a moment to ask God to help us forgive.

Lord, not only as individuals, but also as a country, we have sinned against you. We are sorry for the indifferent and the malicious hurts we have inflicted on countries and people. We turn away from this sin, and we determine, with your help, to try to be part of honouring you as a country. We want the UK to set an example in generosity, loving action, and peace-making. We want to bring glory to your name.

We also see the need for our nation to forgive those who have harmed us. Whether through war, terrorism, scorn or propaganda, we ask for your help in forgiving our enemies. May we demonstrate your character by loving those who hurt us.

Let’s take a moment to pray for our country.

[Prayed at my church on 2008-07-05.]

Prayer for Sri Lanka, love between Christians and other faiths, the church playgroup and students.

Lord, please help us to pray now, and teach us how to pray.

We thank you for the way our playgroup spreads the good news of your love to so many people who don’t get to hear it in other places. We thank you so much for answering our prayers as a church to provide opportunities to tell people about you through this group. We thank you for the many people who have recently come forward to help with the group, and we ask you to prompt those you want to step forward now. We ask you to help the leaders find a way to fit in a time of prayer and welcoming new leaders before each session, despite all the other calls on their time at that moment. We pray for the cream tea afternoon a week on Friday. We pray that we would be able to make the most of the opportunity you provide us through that playgroup. We ask you to prompt more church families with kids to be part of it so that it can be more effective in spreading the word about you. If there are social or practical issues making this difficult, we pray that you would solve them, so that this group can be as effective as possible at telling people about you.

As we take a moment of silence, please show us if you want us to be involved with our playgroup.

We also thank you for the many students who are part of our family here. As they set off home for the summer holidays we want to say thank you for the energy, vibrancy and practical love they provide in our church. Whether we are saying goodbye for good, or just for the summer, we want to thank you for them, and ask you to guide every step they take in the future. Please encourage and strengthen those of us here who work with students, and move this work on from strength to strength next year.

As we take a moment of silence, please show us if you want us do something for one of our students.

We pray for Sri Lanka. After 30 years of civil war, we ask for peace. After thousands of deaths, we ask for a new life together. After division and hate, we ask for unity and love.

We are aware that what we ask looks difficult or even impossible. We know that the only hope for such a miracle is through your love. We pray for your love to flow into Sri Lanka through its Christians. Under 10% of Sri Lankans are Christians, but Christianity offers hope because it is the only faith there that embraces both Sinhalese and Tamil people. We pray for the 2 Anglican Bishops of Sri Lanka as they work with the Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim leaders and the politicians in the work of rebuilding destroyed areas. Much of their work at the moment involves caring for displaced Tamil people. We know that they need water, bedding, medicines and other physical help, and we pray they will get it. We also pray they they will be known for their total integrity. We pray that your Holy Spirit will work powerfully to make them successful in their work of caring, and in their wider task of working towards forgiveness and reconciliation. Lord, we pray that you would break the cycle of hatred and violence. We pray that parents would teach their children forgiveness.

As we take a moment of silence, please show us if you want us to do anything to help the people of Sri Lanka.

We pray for the work President Obama has started in attempting to bring reconciliation between Muslims and The West. We pray for determination and focus on this task even when domestic issues make heavy demands on his administration’s time. We pray for success – for peace and stability in the Middle East, and love and understanding between Christians and Muslims. It sounds crazy even to pray for such things, but we know all things are possible with you. We ask you to work through Christians in high places and low to bring about your will. We ask you to show yourself through their actions. We ask that the countries that are called Christian would bring glory to your name through their actions and words.

As we take a moment of silence, please show us if you want us to do anything to show your love to people from a different culture or religion.

[Prayed at my church on 2008-06-07]

Prayer for Zimbabwe, DRC, divorced and separated people, healing, people who aren’t Christians

Lord, we ask you to help us pray now, and to be teaching us how to pray through our whole lives. We ask that you take our ambition to become a house of prayer and make it a reality: inspire us and encourage us in our prayer, and please show us now where you want us to change things in our lives or do something new.

Dear Lord, we pray for the people of Zimbabwe. The leaders of the Anglican church in Zimbabwe have asked us to make today a day of prayer for their country.
We ask that the good news about Jesus would be known to and accepted by everyone there. We pray that there would be a just and good outcome to the elections: please turn anyone who is tempted to seize power through violence or oppression away from that path. We don’t know what your plans for the country are, Lord, but we ask that your will would be done. We ask that there would be peace, that the law would be upheld, and that there would be enough food for everyone who needs it. As we take a moment of silence to pray for Zimbabwe, please speak to us if you want us to take action to help its people.

Lord, we know that you urgently love everyone in the world. It is with that in mind that we pray for the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We ask that the hope that comes from knowing you would be spread all over the country. We cry out to you Lord and ask you in your mercy to stop the evil practices of murder, torture and rape that are going on there. Lord, when we hear the stories of people who have been raped and tortured as if they had no value, we are tempted to lose hope. But we know their value to you. Please act – as you must long to do – to bring about justice. Please bring punishment for those who commit these acts, and bring them to repentance. We pray for healing for those who are victims – let them understand your love for them, and let your love drive out their fear. We pray for courage for those who are trying to enforce the law in the Congo. As we take a moment of silence to pray for that country, please speak to us if you want us to take action to help its people.

Lord we pray for people in our church who are divorced or separated. We ask for healing where they have been hurt, and guidance about what to do next. We pray that we would notice and act to show your love for the many divorced and separated people in our community. As we take a moment of silence to pray for those we know whose marriages have broken down, please speak to us if you want us to take action to help them.

We pray for healing for the people we know who are ill. We know that the most important healing we all need is healing in our relationship with you. We ask for that as well as asking for physical healing. As we take a moment of silence to pray for people we know who are ill, please speak to us if you want us to take action to help them.

We pray for our friends and family who aren’t Christians. Please reveal yourself to them again and again, and never stop giving them chances to turn to you. Please use us in our weakness to show clearly your love and forgiveness to them. As we take a moment of silence to pray for the people we know who aren’t Christians, please speak to us about how we can show your love to them.

[Prayed at my church on 2008-04-27.]

Prayer for Congo

God, where are you in Congo? Were you there in Luvungi when 242 people were raped last month? Were you there in Uvira when 21 children were raped? Were you crying with them? God, please help them. We beg you to step in. Have we not prayed enough? Don’t we have enough faith? Were we crying with them? Did we notice? Please forgive us our indifference, change us, give us faith. And Lord God, don’t let our failings prevent you from acting.

We pray for everyone in Congo working for peace and governance. We pray for soldiers and rebels tempted to abuse their power: strengthen them. We pray for those grieving for lost people and lost innocence: protect them from revenge – reward their perseverance with wisdom. We pray for those with blood on their hands: bring justice and punishment, and conviction and repentance. We pray for the ordinary people living in their towns and villages: please stop the attacks. Lord we know you have power to do these things: will you do them?

We pray for the foreign governments’ influence on Congo. For our own leaders we ask for insight and wisdom about how to spend aid money. We ask in particular for understanding of how and whether to support the Rwandan and Congolese governments. We pray that our government would be wholly innocent of accepting injustice in exchange for profit.

When we get serious about asking you such huge things, we realise how serious you are. Maybe it was one of us who was supposed to be your servant in Congo, and we didn’t listen? Maybe you were asking us to influence our government, or provide some money?

God, where are you in our lives? Are you our master? Are we your slaves? We turn, now, from our quiet rebellion. We confess there are no areas of our lives that are off-limits for you: there are no decisions that belong to us. If you send us to some place or some person, we will go. We are ready to do what you ask. Only tell us in a way we can understand – leave us no excuse that we’re not sure of your will. We want to obey you Lord – change us, transform our disobedience.

My anti-Tithe

Giving all of ourselves to our God, whom we call “Lord,” would include giving our everything. To me, my devotions would be my job, my girlfriend, my extended family, my friendships, my songwriting, my blog, my habits…everything. This would include my finances.

Of course, my devotion and dedication to God changes moment by moment, as we all have seen in our own lives, but my desire is to be 100% sacrificial with my life, for the sake of Jesus and His way of life. It’s my longing (usually, almost always) to give everything I have, own, and do to the cause and purposes of Jesus.

I do not go to a church, however…mostly by choice. I don’t see myself being involved with just one church, but more of a networker/discipler between believers from different churches (including the unchurched). Due to my circumstances, I’m held back from doing so, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t started to prepare for Cyndi and my house group, hosting parties and sleepovers at our home, or an online community, not unlike the blog that I keep.

Even though I do not attend a “traditional” church, which is usually a meeting that looks nothing like what I believe that Jesus had intended, I do contribute to parachurch organizations, international relief ministries, friends going on mission trips, and to the local homeless people looking for a meal.

“But that’s not to your local, community church,” some would often say.

First, let me assure you that I’m not one of those postmodern believers that use the emerging church, Gen-Y excuses to avoid furthering the Kingdom of Heaven, neglecting spiritual responsibilities. Everything, if I’m interpreting Scripture right, is God’s; He’s entrusted me with what I have. How I use/give what I have reflects my motivations.

A little theology: Tithing in Malachi is the Old Covenant. The 10% thing is overshadowed by the cross. Paul writes that for those who wish to keep a section/fragment of the Written Law is then required to keep all of it (including the sacrifices and stonings in the Torah, if I’m interpreting Scripture right).

Okay, what does the New Covenant say about tithing? Acts 2 says that in the stated community of believers, they sold all that they had, so that what they had could be distributed among themselves. Perhaps, things were different in other underground, house/city churches, but I assume that they did things quite similar in order to just survive and thrive. It was a matter of practicality and simplicity. And Scripture says no one was in need; nobody did without.

Simplicity. Generosity. These are characteristics of a compassionate believer. Mercy towards the needy, justice toward the broken. These are marks of a Christlike servant. How I treat the needy, broken, incarcerated, homeless, fatherless, persecuted, single mom, infected, etc. is how I’m subsequently treating Jesus. These are the ones He cares for and has a special place in His heart (if I’m reading Scripture as it should be read), and neglecting these people with my finances would be like neglecting Jesus’ needs.

If the “local, community church” is having a hard time finding the time or budgets to do these deeds of caring for the needy, broken & forgotten, then I have to either find groups or people that are, or step out into the real world and give to these people myself.

I believe it’s my responsibility to see to it that the money that’s been entrusted to me is a blessing to others, advancing a Kingdom of love, simplicity, practicality, compassion and sacrifice. If that means that the “local, community church” will not receive my “tithe,” then so be it. I’m sure these churches have well-meaning pastors, attendees and routines, and I’m sure God’s interests are their desire, but I believe these rituals, traditions and habits need to be rethought.

Showing love through my finances is important to me, even to the point of being un-traditional.

Forcing things and handing over power

My relationship with God has been sinking for a while now. Nothing dramatic – just more of my usual dread of prayer, and more of a dead feeling when I do try to pray, and less relief of the feeling that there is nothing there.

I’ve been somewhat at a loss as to what to do about it. I’ve tried regular, disciplined prayer for a few weeks at a time, but in terms of my feelings* I haven’t seen anything change.

*By the way, the old adage about how it’s not about feelings – I’m not sure I understand that any more: what else is it about?

Our church group decided that we wanted to spend some time trying to work out what our “calling”s were, or at least what God wanted us to do at the moment, and this fitted quite nicely into the fact that I/we are thinking about our future: my job, where we live etc. We assigned each other a couple of names each to pray for, and one of the friends who was praying for me felt that God was telling her to read the book of Joshua in the Bible, and asked me to read it too in case something came out of it for me.

Of course, nothing came out of it for me.

Last night we had our meeting and she told me that the part of Joshua* that struck her as being about me was the part in Joshua 7 where a guy called Achan steals some of the plunder from destroying Jerico, instead of handing it over to be given to God. This was extremely brave of her since she must have been terrified that she’d be confronting some terrible (probably sexual) sin in my life and didn’t know how I would react.

* As an aside that I just can’t leave out: I want to make it clear that Joshua is probably the hardest book of the Bible for me to accept as being from God, or, normally, of being any use, because it is basically just an account of a genocide backed, nay commanded, by God.

I didn’t suddenly break down and confess to a propensity to place gerbils in any orifices. In fact, I didn’t know how to take it on board at all. I couldn’t see what the terrible sin in my life was: I knew there are pretty crippling sins of pride and greed going on, but not some nice specific thing I can stop doing.

A couple of weeks ago, I felt a little comforted by the idea that maybe what God wanted of me was just to try and follow his “ways” i.e. live our life as a family in a generous and kind way, and be gentle and attentive to my colleagues at work. I felt that I was doing that: on the big decisions we were trying to consult God (with little appearance of answers from him) and trying to do the right thing for our kids and for other people.

As we prayed last night, and prayed and talked and thought today, I have begun to think that what God is trying to say to me is that I am holding back something that belongs to God, like Achan (who, incidentally, was stoned to death along with his wife and daughters). What I am holding back is power over my life.

I think I sort-of knew this already, but I hadn’t considered it to be such a bad thing – one of the mini-sins that we all have a bit of and can’t do much about. The comparison with Achan is shocking, not just because of what happened to him, but mainly because what he did was seen as so wrong – disobeying a specific and direct order. But what am I doing when I hold back power over my life from God? I am making worthless the key thing that being a Christian is: you turn from your sin, and you “follow” God – you submit to God, you “accept” him as your master. So suddenly the idea that this is some grievous sin makes more sense.

What I am left with, then is what to do about this? It is difficult to make a plan of action about something as woolly as giving power back to God. This evening we were praying about our future and I was saying all I’ve written above, and I felt a sense of release. I’ve been extremely tense (my sleep has been utterly shot) as we have been thinking about the future, and some of that tension seemed to be released. Not all of it, by the way, or I would be asleep now instead of writing this.

I realised we have been trying to force it: to bend life to the way we want it to be. When I became a Christian* I turned to God, submitted to him: promised to follow him. How do I do that? I don’t really know, but I think I need to stop having areas that are reserved for me – that may be influenced by him, but it’s my final call.

*Although there’s another potential article in the fact that I don’t have a good moment I can point to when I did become a Christian.

Having the final call is too stressful anyway. I sort of long for relief.

It’s ok to have children without getting married now, isn’t it?

The title of this post is what someone said to me today, as a pointed accusation that I am secretly intolerant.

I changed the subject and felt hurt that they wanted to do this, and now I feel guilty I didn’t respond properly, so I’m going to try and make myself feel better by writing here what I should have said.

Presumably you think it’s wrong to cheat on your wife? Why is it such a stretch then to want to avoid “pre-emptively” cheating on her?

Should I bring it up tomorrow?