tweet to whom?

I am a twit. By that I mean that I have signed up for Twitter. I did so because there are a few people I want to ‘follow’ – receive their 140 character thoughts. I was astonished to find that within a few hours I have a couple of people following me. But I haven’t tweeted anything yet. I am not sure I ever will. I hope that my followers are not disappointed by my inactivity. I’m not sure I could say anything meaningful in just 140 characters!

It reminds me of people who visited a website with a Big Red Button to click. Nothing happened when you clicked it, but that did not stop thousands of people visiting the website and clicking on the Big Red Button in the hope that something would hap…

Hey!

Where are you going?

Oh… to press the Big Red Button. Please come back when you have finished.

[waits]

Welcome back. Did anything happen? Didn’t think so.

So, what about when we pray and it seems like our prayers are as effective as clicking the big red button? It does happen. No matter how much faith (large or small) we have, sometimes it seems as if God has gone on holiday and we don’t hear anything in response.

There were times when I felt that when praying that my headache* would improve. Eight years of praying did not make any difference to the pain levels. I read about other people who received miraculous cures for illnesses but God did not seem to be bothered about me. I could get quite self-absorbed about it!

There’s no easy answer. My experience, though, is that while God did not answer the prayer for healing until the NHS intervened in the correct manner, he did answer prayers for grace to cope, strength to persevere, understanding for my family, and so on. Sometimes he gave those things when I was asking for relief from the pain. Sometimes he gave them when I had specifically asked for them.

Eight years of apparent inactivity from God did not mean he was indifferent to my plight. He provided me with people who would care for me, colleagues who were understanding, many people who prayed and supported me and expressed his love and concern to me through them.

Which leads me to wonder two things: one is whether one reason people don’t perceive answers to prayers is that God’s people are not as involved in being the answers as he would like. The second is whether we should be less prescriptive in what we ask for when we pray. Who am I to tell GOD what he should do?

As the storm raged, the captain realized his ship was sinking fast. He called out, “Anyone here know how to pray?” One man stepped forward. “Aye, Captain, I know how to pray.”

“Good,” said the captain, “you pray while the rest of us put on our life jackets – we’re one short.”

*If you didn’t know I had a constant migraine for about 8 years from 2002 until last year when I had an occipital nerve stimulator inserted, which has reduced the pain level and given me periods of relief.

the secret of God’s timing

Hand watch

Isn’t God’s timing fantastic? I can’t give details but I have just experienced that this morning – where someone’s generosity led to someone else receiving a gift at exactly the right time when only that person and God knew of the need. I was the courier in the experience and left rejoicing and laughing at God’s timing and humbled at having been able to be a very small part of him blessing someone else. The miracle is not just in God’s timing, it is that we listen and respond at just the right time, prompted by his Spirit.

Fish Bait 2I am reminded of one of my favourite Jesus moments in the New Testament, but one that is so obscure that I have even had Christians tell me I had made it up! (It’s in Matthew 17: 24-27). Tax collectors came to collect a temple tax from Jesus and his team. Jesus suggested that Kings do not collect tax from their sons so technically as he was The Son of the temple ‘owner’ he should not have to pay temple tax. But in order not to cause offence he told Peter to go fishing. Inside the mouth of the first fish he caught would be a four drachma coin – enough to pay for Jesus and Peter.

Some fish in the sea of Galilee gather up eggs from the sea bed and hold them in their mouth until they hatch. It is quite possible then that a fish would gather up a shiny coin in that way. But to know which fish it was, and to know that Peter would catch that fish first was something else! It was all about God’s timing. I suspect that Peter’s response when it happened was like mine this morning – rejoicing, laughing and humbled.

(That has all the hallmarks of a great magic trick: a good story, a seemingly impossible scenario and a dramatic reveal (with the kicker that the coin was enough for both taxes, not just Jesus). If I could do that trick I would soon have my own TV special!)

A couple of weeks ago I was preaching on prayer and quoted Bishop William Temple: “When I pray, coincidences happen…” Was today a coincidence?

Timing is everything

Two lawyers are in a bank, when, suddenly, armed robbers burst in, waving guns and yelling for everyone to freeze.

While several of the robbers take the money from the cashiers, others line the customers, including the lawyers, up against a wall, and proceed to take their wallets, watches, and other valuables.

While this is going on, one of the lawyers jams something into the other lawyer’s hand. Without looking down, the second lawyer whispers, “What is this?”

The first lawyer replies, “it’s the £100 I owe you.”