River Wissey Lovell Fuller

June 2005 Anglican Church Letter

June 2005

Keith examines the implication of the recent re-election of New Labour and examines the power of prayer; you maty prefer the latter.

I wonder if people have always felt as thought their times were especially times of flux and crisis. We certainly do now. Although the Labour Government was re-elected by what, by any historical standards is a comfortable majority, yet we perceive it to be shaky and wait for the changes that will follow on from that. The LibDems, who have had the best result since the 1920s are perceived as being in a sort of wilderness or limbo, with as uncertain a policy core as ever. The Conservatives, pleased to have seen off the LibDem challenge and smarting from having so few seats on the basis of the numbers voting, seem nonetheless as lost as ever in trying to decide what their face should be.

We have recently watched a documentary drama about the effects in 2006 of a heat wave such as hit France two years ago - absolutely shocking and dismaying in its forebodings. We read of an astonishing rate of melt of the southern and northern icecaps. We all await with trepidation the apparently inevitable rate of global warming to a conclusion that is tragic not just to the human race, but to many of today's earthly life forms.

We read of suicides and domestic despair as people realise just how much they have borrowed to buy goods of transient value out of income which rapidly becomes inadequate to support the increasing burden.

In the West - and I suspect, in much of the Middle East also - we wait for the terrorist act, which we will not have to read about, because it will have happened to us. And many of us blame religion for this - with so much justice, I am afraid.

Most of the time, we find others to blame for these accidents which are happening to us. Often we berate God for not watching out for us. Many of us turn to prayer, possibly for the first time in a long time. Many of us want to turn to prayer, but don't know who to pray to or in what language to pray. Many of us feel foolish and simply turn away it.

Personally I do advocate prayer for everyone and it is not necessary to know God's name. The Jewish Bible tells of their God's reluctance to ever reveal it. Indeed there is an irreverent comment (not in the Bible, I hasten to add) that when at last God did reveal his name to the Jews via Moses (and thence to Christians and Moslems) he has not had a moment's peace since! Prayer can be totally private and not, therefore, a source of embarrassment. Prayer is actually what many psychologists would encourage as a simple therapy. Prayer incidentally is not asking your own Deity to let you win the lottery - that is better described as wishful thinking or foolery. So what is prayer, if it is not asking for what you want?

Prayer should normally have three components. If you have a well enough defined God in your mind, named or nameless, then, especially in our Western culture, you will probably see him/her as the Creator, whether or not you believe in evolution. In that case, the first part of prayer should be an acknowledgement of the extraordinary nature of that Creation - what in organised religion is called 'worship', which does not mean humiliating kissing of feet, but does mean humble reverence. For those of you who do not believe in any sort of God, then miss out this bit.

The second part of prayer should be intercession for others. It is animal nature to put ourselves first, but it is human nature to put ourselves second - to be of service. In our intercessions, we ask the Deity or whatever to look after those who are less fortunate than ourselves in their difficulties and dangers and for those more fortunate than ourselves that they do not give in to miserliness and self satisfaction.

Finally we should pray for ourselves. I find it useful to think of this in Christian terms. Jesus said that anyone who prayed in his name would have whatever they asked for. This has led to an awful lot of disappointment, as so many prayers have not apparently been answered. But I like to compare this with me giving someone my cheque book and asking them to sign it as appropriate for me - to do things in my name, in other words. This could happen if was to be away for a long time for example. If my friend then went and bought himself a Caribbean Cruise with my cheque book, that would be stealing, however much I had authorised him to do things in my name. So before he writes cheques in my name, he should ask 'What would Keith have done?' And then do likewise. Similarly, Jesus will answer prayers offered in his name only if we ask (as many bracelets used and still do ask - WWJD - What Would Jesus Do?).

Prayer which is properly contemplative and which opens up our problems will be answered. Prayers which simply ask for defined solutions (let me win next week's Lottery, for example) are unlikely to be answered.

So, in these troubled times, a little prayer would not go amiss. Lot's of little prayers make for a lot of prayers. Not so many years ago the Cold War looked like lasting for ever. But many people were praying and suddenly it had gone - almost as though it had never existed. In the Footsteps Story, as I have mentioned in these columns before, we tend to concentrate on the times when there is a single set of footsteps and God explains that those were when times were so hard for us that he carried us. I also like to think of the other times, when God expected us to do some of our own walking. As we face terrorism, global warming, financial and domestic trouble, inadequate Government, we need to do what we can, but we also need to pray - these may be times when God needs to get us in a fireman's lift.

Keith MacLeod

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