Praying for the World

This week I tried another prayer station, continuing the theme through the summer break.

The reflection is on the Approaches to Prayer site, under the heading Intercession and select Global Issues.

So if you’re doing this by yourself, it might be handy to grab a couple of things.  You’ll need an atlas, globe, printed or online map of the world; the Guardian online has a fantastic map of the world in pdf format you can use.  The other thing you’ll need is a map or overview of your local area, district or parish.

If you have the tech for it, you might want to use Google Earth, especially, if you’ve got a VR headset such as the Oculus Rift. It’s thoroughly breathtaking to be able to see everything in 3D; if you do have the resources for it, then I suggest that whoever is following this needs someone with them to read for them.

So starting out, you’re way out in space and gradually get closer and closer to where you are, changing perspectives during every reflection.  The scripture used changes with your view of things, and when you start out imaging our world from space you can appreciate the beauty of the world, gradually as you get closer you start to see more and more detail until eventually, the problems of the world become apparent.

The scripture flows like this:

31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
Genesis 1:31 (NIV)

24 Lord, you have made so many things!
    How wisely you made them all!
    The earth is filled with your creatures.
Psalm 104:24 (GNT)

31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
    may the Lord rejoice in his works—
Psalm 104:31 (NIV)

51 Be merciful to me, O God,
    because of your constant love.
Because of your great mercy
    wipe away my sins!
Wash away all my evil
    and make me clean from my sin!
Psalm 51:1-2 (GNT)

The contrast between the beauty of the world and the problems we cause is very dramatic. It is apparent that while we as individuals or as nations serve our own self-interests, we will never be able to qualify ourselves as good guardians of this fair Earth while so many of us ignore its needs.

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
Genesis 2:15 (NIV)

To be honest, my emotions going through this started off with, wow, need some Jean-Michel Jarre (either Equinoxe or Oxygene), look at the world, ooh it’s lovely … oh wait, look at the land, the sea [shouldn’t I be able to see the Great Wall of China?] … deserts, forests, birds, jungles, polar bears … Amazon destroyed, trees tumbling, tundra burning, the sea’s congealing, plastic, toxic, nuclear, wasteland, stop!!! Nooooo, what are we doing? We can’t do this, we have to stop!! Oh … wait … I can see my house from here!  From this, you can see there’s an awful lot that can go through your head when you just do a simple bit of prayer reflection.  Our human nature is to blot out the things in life that do not directly concern us; perhaps we should be more reflective, and remember that we are God’s caretakers on this planet.

Dear Lord, thank you for providing this opportunity.
Forgive us our short-sightedness,
for our misuse of the power,
you loaned us over your creation.
Grant us the wisdom to undo the harm we have done,
help us to rebuild that which we have lost,
and to breath new life into our world
where so much now ceases to exist.
Lead us to peace on this world,
to bring about your kingdom.
Restore around us the beauty that we have lost.

Amen

 

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We are all loved by God

The other week I published a post about a set of four cards we were provided with for prayer and reflection called Things We Should Know.  The first of these is

“I am loved by God”

Romans 5:8

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

There are some tough concepts to grasp throughout the Bible, and there are some that are repeated time and again, but not because they are difficult, it is because they are incredibly significant.

Love is a concept that is repeated time and again because it is essential. When we go to church, we are reminded of this every Sunday. At one point one of the Pharisees asks Jesus “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Matthew 20:37-40.

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
(NIV)
[Note: This verse is so central to everything that I feel ashamed to highlight parts of it].

Love is crucial to our very existence, and yet we, as human beings, are capable of extreme polarities on this subject. In some cases, we are presented with marvellous examples of how we can love each other, of how self-sacrifice concerning service to others demonstrates our immense capacity to share through love. Then, on the other hand, we have the disastrous capability to destroy it out of sheer spite or self-centeredness. For example, how many of us can go a whole week without thinking of a criticism directed at someone? It will be the way they look, dress, behave, or something they say … it is too easy to do any of that, it is by far more challenging to do the opposite.

Love has been the central the topic of films, plays, songs and books all the way back into ancient times, that is how much of an impact it has on us.

Can you imagine a love so exceptional that it would transcend all time, and forgive all of our indiscretions no matter what they might be? Do you think we are capable of that? At the same time, that love is for everyone, and everything; there are no exceptions and no limits. That the provider of that love is prepared to do so much more than we can imagine just for us?

We strive so hard to earn and keep love alive through life; we desire it, we cherish it, and at the same time sometimes we despise it. Why do we, as the human race do this? We can forget so quickly that God’s love is continuously there for us, just waiting for us to reach out and accept it. Are you willing to receive Gods love in your life?

We find love in many ways. Given freely by our parents, in our relationships, in family and friends, in how we share our lives, how we care for one another, consideration in our everyday interactions. At the same time we risk many things in its name, but despite everything we do, we will never reach the mighty height that is Gods love for us. Love, for us, is not just one thing. It evolves, it changes, it grows, and it weakens, it can feel intense, burning out of control, we can lose ourselves so easily it blinds us. The human range of emotion bound to love will always cause us problems, it has an immense variety and we probably all go through the various stages at some point.

It is sometimes difficult to love, but it can also be difficult to accept love. Placing complete trust in someone else is a no small thing, some couples never achieve it, and that can lead to relationships breaking down, but when it is strong enough and when love is true devotion to each other, you can get through anything, no matter what you face.

The love God gives us is so strong; He was willing to go so far as to sacrifice His son to save all of us. One final sacrifice, to surpass all of the sacrifices made in the past or the future. We are fulfilled, released from sin, reborn anew through the death of Jesus upon the cross. This he did for us despite everything we have done, regardless of who we are, what we are or how we live our lives.

God’s love for us is beyond what we can imagine, and we can all participate in it. It is pure, open, caring, nurturing, parental and kind.

Still think we can’t do this?

If you get to know and trust in Jesus, accept the love of God and open yourself up to the Holy Spirit you will find and recognise this love deep within. The truth is that by placing your trust in God and accepting the love that is given, freely for all, we can all find peace and harmony, and carry that within us wherever we might be.

Like The Beatles sang, all we need is love!

Lord, thank you for loving us
regardless of who we are;
thank you for forgiving us our many faults.
Please use the power of your love within us,
let it grow and flourish so that we too
can learn to love each other as you do.
Help us to live in peace and harmony

through the blessing of your love.

Amen

Bible app Image of the Day

Had to share this one with you as a quick post:

How do you listen? When do you hear? Think back to Elijah hiding in the cave on the mountain of Horeb.

1 Kings 19:11-13

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
(NIV)

Elijah did not hear the voice of God in the wind, or in the thunder of shattered rock.  He did not hear His voice in the earthquake or in the fire that followed.  There was no fanfare, no brass band, no drum line, and no great announcer.

He heard the voice of God in the silence, when things were again at peace, as a whisper in his ear, gently asking:

“What
are you
doing here,
Elijah?”

Do you listen with your ears? With your mind? With your heart? Or with your soul?

Listen well, but use all of your senses to do so. Be open, and you also might hear God calling to you.

Meditation on Scripture: Peace

This is the second of the prayer stations I participated in this last week.

For this prayer station, there are some sections of the Gospel of John to read and to reflect on.  Think about what the text means to you, how does it impact on your life, your thoughts, and your behaviour.

You can find the prayer reflection on Approaches to Prayer.

The readings are:

John 14:27

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
(NIV)

Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isiah 9:6)

If you’d like to study more on this verse (incl. commentary) check out BibleHub

John 20:19-23

Jesus Appears to His Disciples

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
(NIV)

There’s more to study in this verse on BibleHub

So this one took a bit of reading and a lot of thinking. Taken in context, in the first verse, John 14:27, Jesus is about to leave his disciples, and he senses their anxiety and takes that away from them.  Ignoring the context and by just focusing on the verse I arrived at this:

Our worries and fears are fleeting, as much as the world’s peace is short-lived; we need to have the confidence to release them, or they will eternally weigh us down. If we knew the big picture as Jesus did, we would not be troubled – instead, focus on the arrival of the kingdom; everything that takes place possibly happens to bring that about.

The second part of this reflection is more of a challenge directed at us, as individuals.  We are all called to share the good news, to spread the word of our Lord, to share His peace with everyone.  First, we need to learn to accept it ourselves, which means being at peace within as well.  Share whatever troubles you with God, Jesus is there to intervene for us too, so there is nothing to be shy about; God already knows what is in our hearts, we just need to accept who we are before we can indeed move forward.  Opening ourselves to Jesus is a brilliant first step in doing all of that. If you open the door, Jesus will step through it.

For everything, there is a time…

While the summer break is happening and many people are taking a well-earned rest, we have replaced our usual weekly cafe church with a series of prayer stations.  We are invited, over the coming weeks, to spend time involved with each activity, quietly reflecting on what we read, see, think, or do.

The first I picked up was a writing exercise; no prizes for guessing why I picked that one!

The writing station consisted of two parts from Approaches to Prayer.

Part One: What time is it?

Consider the twenty-four-hour clock and imagine where you are in it (i.e. what time of day) and why you believe you are at that point. Think about the things you might have wanted to do, have done, are still to do.  At that time of the clock, which would you chose to do, put aside and complete now?

Part Two: Reflect on the last twenty-four hours.

The second part included a reflection on the last twenty-four hours.  There are some excellent journalling prompts if that’s your thing:

  • Where you were
  • What you did
  • What you said
  • What was said to you
  • How you felt throughout

and so on…

Again this is all a writing exercise, and I guess the aim of it is to make you think about what has taken place, how you fit into it, how God fits in with it and what was your relationship with God like throughout it all.  The reflection is in several parts:

  1. Pick a few times from the day for which you would like to thank God
  2. Choose events which caused you concern or anxiety, and offer them to God
  3. Are there times in the day where you marred God’s image in you
  4. Identify a point in the day where
    • God touched your life
    • God was revealed to you
    • God spoke to you
  5. Looking back, think about the insights you have gained
  6. Did you miss something that God was trying to say to you at the time?
  7. Is there something that God is encouraging you to do?

I wrote about two pages of stuff, which is all very personal to me.  If I managed to keep a journal, I don’t think I’d be short of things to put in it.  Have a go at any or all of the things that this prayer station provided, it can help you destress by offloading your thoughts, and it’ll certainly help you sleep better at night.  Dump all of your cares before sleep, so your mind doesn’t dwell on them.  Use a diary, a journal or better yet, talk it through with God via prayer.  Remember, He already knows your innermost thoughts, your worries and your hopes and dreams – talk about them and share them openly with God, take off those chains of anxiety and fear that bind you, and trust in Him to guide you.

Being thankful to God

There are many types of prayer. I imagine the most used outside of the church environment are for supplication or intercession; for me or those I lift up to you. Many times when we pray we are usually praying because of something that is happening around us, to us, or to someone else, and these events fit into those two categories, but perhaps the one we’re most negligent in is just thankfulness to God.

Sometimes, instead of pleas to help me, help them, give me, give them, it’s about saying thank you:

Lord God, we give praise to you,
thank you for everything you do.
Thank you for being there;
for listening, when we do not,
and for friendship, when we are not.
Thank you for guiding us through life
and for all the things you provide.

Amen

Things we should know

We were all handed four small cards on Sunday, with four truths about God and our relationship with God.  They all had a verse from the bible associated with it printed on the back, so I thought I’d share them with you.

I am loved by God

“but God shows His love for us
in that while we were still sinners,
Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:8

God is good

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good …”
Psalm 136:1

I belong to God

“Yet to all who did receive Him,
to those who believed in His name,
He gave the right to become children of God.”
John 1:12

I have peace with God

“…we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Romans 5:1

We are encouraged to use these in reflection, and prayer, and they fitted in very nicely with the reading from Psalm 118 verses 19-24

19 Open for me the gates of the righteous;
    I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord
    through which the righteous may enter.
21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
    you have become my salvation.

22 The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
23 the Lord has done this,
    and it is marvellous in our eyes.
24 The Lord has done it this very day;
    let us rejoice today and be glad.