praying

This morning I spent some time at a prayer space at South Woodham Evangelical Church and found it very helpful. During the time several different thoughts occurred to me and a couple of them stuck.

One is that I personally find it a lot easier to spend time in prayer if I have activities to engage with. Spending time in silent prayer and meditation is good but I find it hard work (not that hard work is wrong!). I lose concentration, my mind drifts and, if I am completely honest, I can get a bit bored.

But if you give me some prayerful activities to engage with I find myself entering into a dialogue with God that is so much richer and more profound that sitting in silence. That bothers me, because I fear that I am missing out because of that, and it also blesses me because I recognise (as I have said many times here) that we all have different spiritual personalities and there really isn’t one-size that fits all when it comes to praying, reading the Bible and encountering God.

This morning I was refreshed as I put an Alka Seltzer tablet (other effervescent tablets are available) into a bowl of water and watched it vanish – reflecting that the stuff that separates me from God (my sin) has been forgiven when I confess it and as far as God is concerned is gone, forgotten, deleted, erased… it is no longer something that separates me from him.

I was blessed when provided with a blank piece of paper and some drawing implements so that I could  be creative. I drew something that represented the empty tomb on the first Easter Sunday and thought through the implications of that: because the tomb is empty

I am…

I can…

I will…

I will be…

I see…

and I filled in some of the blanks in grateful prayer.

I wrote the names of people and situations for which I am currently praying on a cut out of a person and sought God’s grace, joy, peace, presence and love for those people. It helped me to focus on them, their needs, their circumstances and the fact that they are people not just names.

I had an encounter with God.

inspired

And there was more besides. Much more. It was a very special time. Thank you to SWEC and the Chelmsford 24/7 Prayer team who helped organise it.

So the thought occurs to me to ask you how you find it easier to encounter God, to pray, to read the Bible? Have you tried other approaches to see if they are helpful or have you just stuck to what you have always known and the way you have always done it? You could be missing out!

Be blessed, be a blessing.

chatting with God

Dearest bloggists

First of all let me apologise for the more-intermittent-than-usual nature of my blog posts recently. That is down to me not having enough time near my computer to communicate some of the random thoughts that bounce around my brain through my fingers, via the keyboard, onto the blog. That may not improve over the next few days due to rehearsals for the magic show on Saturday (see previous bloggages) but hopefully next week…

In the meantime, here’s a continuation of a train of thought that I have occasionally followed here. I find that when I am closer to God prayer becomes more natural. And when prayer is more natural I feel even closer to God. (The opposite is also true). I also find that when I am closer to God different things prompt my praying.

For example, now I have a regional role I am driving a lot around the lovely county of Essex (8000 miles in the last 5 months!). When I see a road sign for somewhere where there is a Baptist church I try to offer a quick prayer for them. When I was driving through torrential rain recently I reflected that I would have been drenched had I not been in my car and then thought that it would be wonderful to be drenched again by God’s Spirit. Phone calls and emails from people can also prompt prayers for them. If I see an ambulance I can pray for those I know who are sick (and if the blue lights are on, for the people in the ambulance (paramedics and patients). And so on.

In other words, I am trying to use my circumstances and experiences as prompts for my praying. Prayer should not be confined to church, as if it needed to be protected from contamination. It is not only for special moments when we have God’s attention and he has ours. Prayer, at its best, is an ongoing conversation with God – chatting to him through the day. And as we chat we find that he also speaks – for example when I see a road sign for somewhere where there is a Baptist church I hear him remind me that ‘church’ is his Plan A for letting the world know about him, and he doesn’t have a Plan B. When I was driving through torrential rain recently I heard him say that he wanted to drench me too. He speaks to me through phone calls and emails from people. If I see an ambulance he might speak to me of the needs of others and also how he cares for each person on the planet. And so on.

For me it takes the pressure off my praying and also helps me shed the evangelical guilt that comes from limiting God to a ‘quiet time’.

I am not disparaging public prayers in church, they are important. I am not saying that it is not a good idea to set aside special times to pray. But I will go so far as to say that God would prefer to chat with us than to be restricted to specific moments. What do you think?

Be blessed, be a blessing

Easter Eyeland Statue

When we were on holiday a couple of weeks ago I bought a souvenir. I suppose we all do – things we would not normally buy but which remind us of our holiday, people we met, places we visited and so on. This souvenir made me smile when I first saw it, and then when I realised what it was I decided that it would be really useful.

As you can see it is reminiscent of the Easter Island statues, but is in fact a stand for my glasses. One of the irritating things for me about wearing glasses is having nowhere sensible to store them overnight. I used to put them on the bedside table (because I need them to be able to see properly and need them within easy reach. But during the night I might reach for something else in the dark and either knock them off or get grubby fingerprints over the lenses. There was always the risk of them getting scratched in the process.

But now they have a place of safety that keeps them out of the way. And it still makes me smile. And it reminds me of our holiday – every time I put my glasses on the stand I am reminded of the relaxation, the warmth, the scenery and the time spent with my family. And I am grateful.

I find that a similar practice helps me with my spiritual life. I associate ordinary objects and activities with spiritual disciplines. So, for example, when I am washing and shaving in the bathroom and look in the mirror (not a pleasant activity first thing in the morning… or any time actually) I am reminded to look within and see if I need to ask God to cleanse me from within as well. In the car, if I drive past someone’s house or workplace I offer up a quick prayer for them. We almost always say ‘grace’ when we sit down to eat a meal, reminding us of God’s provision for us.

I find that making a conscious decision to attach a spiritual discipline to a physical event or object helps me to keep closer to God. In some senses the more mundane the better, because it frees up my mind to reflect, pray and give my attention to God. They are souvenirs in the true sense of the word.

What are your souvenirs?

Be blessed, be a blessing.

One of the relatively new things we need to do today is set up an ‘out of office’ reply for when we are on holiday. Having got back to over 180 emails from my last holiday I like this one:

I am currently on holiday and will be unable to deal with all the e-mails you send me until I return on 1st September. There will probably be a lot of emails waiting for me. Please be patient and your mail will be deleted in the order it was received.

busy as a bee

beeWhy do we say that someone is busy as a bee? Surely it should be buzzy as a bee? Yes I know that these are very active and diligent in collecting pollen, but we don’t say that we are as busy as other insects who are equally active and diligent. And while I’m thinking about it why is it that the buzzier an insect is the less capable it is of flying out of an open window? Silent insects seem to have no problem flying back out the way they came in. But buzzy ones spend ages bashing their heads against a window right next door to the space through which they entered.

Today I have an extremely busy day. It might even be a minor miracle if I manage to get to all of the different activities on time, unflustered, and able to focus on the different aspects of all I have to do. The success or otherwise of this busy day will depend on the availability of parking spaces and the free movement of traffic to enable me to move between meetings with a minimum of stress.

Two brief thoughts occur to me as I contemplate today: the first is that the busier I am the more time I need to spend in prayerful reflection. This enables me to get things in the right perspective and recognise that I am not indispensable.

The second is that often I concentrate on the meetings/events and not what happens between them. But without the time, movement and activity between the meetings/events the meetings/events will not happen. God wants to be involved as much in the ‘down time’ as in the moments of activity. Indeed I can use the ‘down time’ to focus more on him than perhaps I’m able to do when I’m busy.

Be blessed, be a blessing

 

intermittent praying

I am sorry to say that this week’s bloggages have been somewhat intermittent. I have been very busy this week, including fitting in an extra day off today (Thursday) to coincide with Sally taking a day’s leave in order to use up her annual allocation. She’s out at housegroup now so it’s okay for me to release some sneaky bloggerel into cyberspace.

Intermittent sometimes describes my prayer life too, if I am being brutally honest. And it is often busy-ness that causes the intermittance (and perhaps a new word too…). I meet on a monthly basis with three local Baptist Ministers and we have just agreed to try to be honest with each other and help each other by being mutually accountable about how we are doing in our relationship with God. That’s both scary and fantastic at the same time.

Being a Minister can be incredibly rewarding and carries immense privileges, but it can also be quite lonely and there is always the temptation to be a professional Christian. I can use my sermon preparation time as my ‘Bible study’ time. I can use praying for others as a substitute for my own personal prayer life. And I have found that if I do I get spiritually dry. I’m not in that place right now, but it would be easy to do so.

So being honest with my friends will help me. It’s not the fear that they may catch me out, but knowing that they understand, are praying for me and that we can encourage each other that makes this such a brilliant friendship. It would be perfectly possible for me to share superficial success with these colleagues and show them a veneer that suggests everything is always fine. But that won’t bless me or help us to help one another. So I have resolved to be honest.

And, if I am honest with you, dear bloggite, I need to stop right now (without a joke today!!) in order to go and pray a bit more to try to minimise the intermittance. You could too…