con sequences

dominos - permission for blogOver the past couple of months in our morning services we have been looking at the Lord’s Prayer. That’s the one that we used to say in school assemblies at Primary School (it was a church school) and where we knew the rhythm better than the words; the one that we say at weddings and funerals because it is a familiar prayer; the one that many Christians can recite without really thinking about it; the one that I had eschewed from saying often in church because of those reasons.

I have changed my mind on this, and now the Lord’s Prayer is part of my daily routine (I say it at 11). I have rediscovered the depth and breadth of the prayer. I have found that regular recital does lead to familiarity but that leads to security not contempt.

And perhaps because of this I am finding that aspects of the prayer are constantly coming up in all sorts of places. Sermons on Bible passages and subjects other than the Lord’s Prayer naturally invoke aspects of the prayer. Daily activity leads to me remember parts of the prayer.

That happened to me this morning. I was awake earlier than I had intended and was pondering. It would be wrong to say that I was praying, but I was thinking in a God-orientated way (which for purists is not related to prayer, but in my mind is at the very least a sibling!). I was musing on the parts of the prayer that speak of us forgiving as we are forgiven, and of us not being led into temptation.

The thought occurred to me that one of the reasons why so many of us humans end up doing things that we regret, for which we need to ask forgiveness, is that we have a very short-term view of things. A hedonistic approach to life suggests that we try to get as much pleasure out of life as we can and never mind the consequences. That approach (to a greater or lesser extent) seems to lie behind a lot of ‘falls from grace’.

The con sequence is ‘Go for it, enjoy yourself: don’t worry about getting caught, don’t worry about what will happen… just do it.’

High profile ‘celebrities’ have been convicted of sexual offences. Why did they do it? Why did they risk their career, family, reputation? Because they were living in the thrill of the moment and never mind the con sequences.

Alcohol-fuelled injuries (it is one of the leading causes of accidents and fights) are the unexpected and unconsidered con sequences of enjoying the moment and over-indulgence: “Wouldn’t it be funny to dance on that table?” is not something we often think when sober!

So what’s the answer? A puritanical approach that condemns all pleasure? No – God has created us with senses to be stimulated, and with the ability to enjoy life. He invented adrenaline and seratonin and the like. Jesus even changed water into wine so was probably not teetotal.

It seems to me that perhaps we should listen to his Spirit a bit more – that little voice that asks us ‘are you sure about that?’ when we are tempted. It’s quite easy to ignore him, but it’s also quite easy to listen to him if we want to. If we ask him to (and the Lord’s Prayer encourages us to do that) he will speak, but whether we listen to him still comes down to our choices – short term thrills may have long term con sequences.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

The following pome (sic) is another example of me trying out irony…

X-stream thoughts
Who’s responsible for ‘extreme sports’?
someone must be to blame.
Who first thought it was a good idea
to throw themselves off a bridge
with their feet tied to an elastic band?
And who decided it would be fun to hurtle down mountains
on a tea tray?
Or jump off them with a parachute?
Which allegedly sane individual imagined that climbing sheer rock faces
without so much as a safety net
was a bit of a laugh?
Was there a committee responsible for the idea that riding a bicycle down
tracks shunned by mountain goats
would be kinda neat?
What made someone think,
“Let’s ride the rocky rapids
in a flimsy rubber boat?”
And who said it has become cool to pull terrifying tricks
on a roller skate strapped to a plank?
Who’s to blame for this seemingly endless stream
of new ways to nearly kill yourself, yet live to tell the tale?
Usually.
Whoever gave us adrenaline and told us to live life to the max
is surely responsible
for all our irresponsibility.
© 2003 Nick Lear

please sir, can I have some more?

open handsI am not brilliant at praying. There are some people I know who are – it comes naturally to them. I don’t really mean finding the right words to use, it’s more about remembering to pray so I am in a conversation with God through the day.

You see the problem we have is that we can’t actually see God. Yes, I know we can see his fingerprints and experience him through the Bible, other people, nature and in loads of other ways, but not actually seeing him means that (if we are honest) we don’t always pray as much as we could. I know it’s true for me.

So I have developed a coping mechanism. I give myself visual cues as reminders. When I look in the mirror (aargh!) while washing my hands or brushing my teeth it is a visual cue to remind me to check and see if I need to say sorry to God for anything, and also whether I need to say sorry to anyone else. When I am walking or driving around I try to respond to visual cues to pray for other people.

For example, right now Colchester is in a fearful state having had two people brutally murdered in the space of about a couple of months. As I was driving around today I saw a police car and that reminded me of the situation and led me to pray for the police and the victims’ families and friends. I was in a school taking assemblies earlier today and as I looked out of the window before the children arrived I saw the top of the Town Hall. That reminded me to pray for the town, for those who are serving us as local politicians and Council staff. I drove near another school where a friend works and that reminded me to pray for him, for the school, and for those who are in education. I drove past the houses of some of our members and that reminded me to pray for them. When someone says ‘thank you’ to me I try also to have an attitude of gratitude to my Father in heaven.

You get the idea.

It’s not that I am superholy or anything like that. But if I go with my eyes open I can find all sorts of things to talk to God about. And I have come up with another one. I am exploring the Lord’s Prayer with our church on Sunday mornings and last time we looked at ‘give us today our daily bread…’ As I reflected on that I realised that while in Jesus’ day that was a prayer for survival in a subsistence existence for me in 21st Century Britain it can seem a little unnecessary. I have more than I need. I can go to a shop and choose from a bewildering array of bread at almost any time of day or night. I can even go online and have it delivered to my door.

‘Give us today our daily bread’ was an expression of dependence on God. It was a recognition that we need him in our life to meet our need for physical and spiritual nourishment. Today it’s almost reduced to punctuation in the prayer between asking for God’s will to be done and asking for his forgiveness (as we forgive…). So to counter this I am trying to pray (silently) ‘give us today our daily bread’ as I go into a shop for some food, or order it online, or even place an order for a takeaway delivery. I know that by the grace of God the food will be there for me.

But praying ‘give us today our daily bread’ as I enter a shop is an acknowledgement that I am the grateful recipient at the end of a food chain that starts with God and includes a lot of people before it arrives on my plate. Praying ‘give us today our daily bread’ as I enter a shop is an act of worship as I remind myself that God is looking out for me. And praying ‘give us today our daily bread’ is a corporate prayer (give us) that reminds me too that while I am privileged to have food there are plenty of people in the world who still live a subsistence existence and my praying is on their behalf too.

If you struggle to remember to pray, why not try some visual cues?

Be blessed, be a blessing.

a gem of a prayer

I can’t remember where I heard of this (if it’s you, thank you and let me know so I can credit you!) but I heard of a church that decided to pray together every day. To gather together physically was impractical so they agreed that at 11am each day they would stop and simply pray the Lord’s Prayer silently.

I have adopted that practice. With the benefit of electronic diaries I get a reminder every day at 11 to pray the Lord’s Prayer. This is a new discipline for me, although I use and find the pattern of the Lord’s Prayer is essential to my praying:

It has many facets—like a beautiful gemstone. 

In prayer we praise God and tell him what we think of him.

We thank God for how he has responded to us, for answered prayers and for what he has done.

We acknowledge that God is God, and submit ourselves to his will.

We ask God for help for ourselves and for others. We might be asking for protection, for health, for strength, for physical needs and much more.

We ask for forgiveness, a fresh start and a renewed experience of his Spirit within us.

We seek his wisdom and guidance for our life, recognizing that his ways are not always what we expect.

We seek God’s blessing on our own lives and on our friends, family and others. We express our concern about national and international incidents and ask for God to inspire us and others to help however we can.

We ask that God’s Kingdom would continue to grow in our life, in those around us, and throughout the world.

We tell God how we feel—whether we feel on top of the world, or that we are walking through the darkest valley, or simply that things are ‘okay’.

However I have not always found it helpful to recite the Lord’ Prayer verbatim. Perhaps it comes from my childhood in Primary School Assemblies where we would recite it and it almost became a race to see who could finish first, or from experiences where the recitation was dour and without intonation or expectation. But I am determined to try this.

I am letting you know for a couple of reasons:

One is so that if I stop in the middle of something we are doing together at 11am and pause you will know why.

Another is to invite you to join me. Praying together simultaneously in this way is a way of expressing shared faith in Jesus.

It is also a significant prayer to pray as a pattern and even (I am experiencing) as a prayer in itself.

And it may even be missional: if someone asks you why you have paused you can tell them. You could even invite them to join you!

One tip – if you are driving at 11 o’clock it may be best either to pull over and stop or to pray with your eyes open!

Be blessed, be a blessing