Pray, always

Amid everything, I tried to take a break, but after five months of non-stop activity, I found it a little challenging to recharge my batteries.  By the time I was ready to recuperate, it was time to start work again; I no longer feel like I had a break.  We face this challenge daily, the long hard slog through the day and not enough time at home to relax because there are so many more demands on our time than work.  Finding a decent work-life balance in this new COVID world will be one of the many challenges we have to face. I think the most challenging thing for me was psychological in that where I work now is my home so switching off is troublesome.  On top of that, the nation is going barmy, and people are starting to have a go at the littlest things and our neighbours, who might have been happy to let things be, start baring teeth because they are unhappy with the way things are.  Times are troublesome, challenging and for some people difficult to manage, and for some so challenging to face that they turn in directions that lead them astray from who they are.

We have a phone tree in church, I see some of it personally, and I get to listen to others who are experiencing all sorts of issues with varying degrees of success and failure. One of our solutions was to expand the weekly prayer group, so a group of us now pray morning and evening prayer (I’m on the rota for early Friday eves) – I find this helps.  I have my own separate private prayer time, my continuous conversations with God and Jesus. Still, with the only congregational worship presently restricted to looking at a monitor and the nature of future worship looking so different, I find the fifteen to thirty minutes of structured prayer on a Friday and praying around the prayer lists, and parish needs, comforting.

You can join in live online via Facebook, YouTube, Zoom and many more for most things these days.  While we, as congregations, are dispersed, we, as a church, can still meet.  The building itself is only there to facilitate togetherness – it is not the source or focus of our worship or prayer.  It reminds me of the early church, of the apostles moving from one place to another, in Acts, creating and facilitating new churches, new congregations, new followers of Jesus.  It reminds me of the early church in Rome, struggling to meet for fear of persecution, in homes, in isolated, hidden or empty places.  I feel a deeper connection to those Christians who have trodden our path before us as a result. My faith may even be a little deeper, all I know is I haven’t strayed because we as Christians need to be a light in this hour of darkness for those who are struggling, and for each other.  Even those beside us who look as if they’re doing OK will have issues they’re fighting with so being there, giving things in prayer, is essential.

When I pray, I let go of things, I release it all into God’s hands, and I empty myself before Him.  I know I shouldn’t have to worry …

… of course, I’m human, so I do, but I shouldn’t …

… ad infinitum in our human frailness.

But the one thing I do is pray, or talk, or look to Jesus and sigh it out.  One thing I never am is angry with God or Jesus, and I try to limit it with everyone else because our anger does not come from God; it comes from within us, and it is not an easy thing to live with or for people to control.  How are we expected to forgive if we are angry? We cannot have peace within if we allow rage to reside in our hearts and minds, or enable it to dictate how we behave.  It is something we believe we can control, but ultimately we can’t so we have to lean on God for help, for without God, without Jesus, we are unable to fulfil our purpose upon this Earth.

The Vine and the Branches
.5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

John 15:1-17

God bless us and keep us safe.

Hope

Sometimes life can feel like it’s dragging us down, sometimes it can feel like we’re hacking our way through a jungle to get stuck wading through quicksand, but just like the old Tarzan movies when people get stuck there is always a vine to hold onto, for everyone, that vine is Jesus.  Once we are holding onto that vine, becoming one with it, we know safety is assured, our saviour is on their way and we can live to enjoy life once more.

The vine and the branches
15 ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing…

John 15:1-17 New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

There is always hope in life as long as we reach out for the vine that can save us.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. John 15:1

Hope is the subject we’re covering in Celebrate Recovery (CR) so it’s been on my mind lately amongst the turmoil.  It’s odd how much we can find God is with us when we are feeling a bit useless (Matthew 5:1-12).  The other day, after feeling a bit low, I decided to try to write the prayer to open the Hope session of CR (it’s my turn on the rota) so I thought I’d share it with you, to use if you so wish.

Lord Jesus,
You are our flame of hope, rising above us like the pillar of fire before Moses and the tribes of Israel as they escaped from suffering.
Fill us all, we pray, with joy and peace, as we place our trust in You,
so that we may overflow with hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Hope binding us all together to the vine of life.
May we have rest and peace in our hearts.
We ask that You guard our minds through the night to protect us from our fears, our doubts, and our regrets.
May Your healing be upon our hearts, our minds, and our bodies at the break of dawn.
Restore us, Lord, heal our wounds, instil Your energy within our souls and hope eternal within our hearts.
Allow us to find new strength through Your words, teach us O Lord.
We thank you for Your love that we can live and enjoy life again.
Help us, we pray, to wake up every day with hope.
Of all this, we ask, of all this we pray
through You, our brother,
our saviour, Jesus Christ
AMEN