This week Melanie and I went out for a meal, not realising there was a noisy pub quiz on that evening. We sat around the corner, not joining the quiz, but at our table we tried to answer the questions. Whenever we answered correctly, we were quite pleased with ourselves. A quiz is a test of knowledge that can reveal both what you do know and what you don’t know. We have all had tests, exams, trials that may stretch us. The bible speaks of testing in a variety of ways. One of these is found in the Lord’s prayer.
Today we celebrate Judith Jackson’s ministry and mark her thirty years of cross cultural, cross language missionary work. We gratefully acknowledge the partnership with OMF. Eugene Peterson authored a book on discipleship with the title, A long obedience in the same direction. What we see in Judith is a long obedience in the same direction. Recently at our missions service I had the congregation imagine they were missionaries sent to Auckland and asked them what would they do to connect with the local people. The most common answer was - introduce yourself to your neighbours. This was followed by - Learn what is happening locally - Initiate hospitality – and Find out if there are churches in the area and connect with them. My favourite answer was buy a cute dog, walk it in the park, and use it as a conversation starter with the people there. My reason for asking this question was that we are all missionaries at some level and our mission field is the place we call home.
When you consider your experience of prayer, how do you feel or think about it? Are you skeptical? Have you tried it and concluded it doesn’t work? Do you find comfort in prayer? Do you see it as a form of wishful thinking or perhaps a way of channelling positive thinking? Because prayer is not mechanical or formulaic it’s outcomes can’t easily be predicted. Since prayer is relational and dynamic, it is more to be experienced than precisely explained. This is why I am stressing in this series Prayer is a journey to: the heart of the Father; the likeness of the Son; and the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
It may be easy to pray on our own, when only God is listening, but many people find it hard to pray in the company of others. Someone jokingly said, praying aloud with others is breaking the sound barrier. It does take courage to pray with others. Prayer is an expression of our faith, and as we pray we reveal the priorities of our heart. Because of this, prayer is opening ourselves up in the company of others, revealing something about ourselves, our concerns, our hopes, and allowing people to see more deeply into our lives.
"What if God does not demand prayer as much as gives prayer? What if God wants prayer in order to satisfy us? What if prayer is a means of God nourishing, restoring, healing, converting us? Suppose prayer is primarily allowing ourselves to be loved, addressed and claimed by God. What if praying means opening ourselves to the gift of God’s own self and presence? What if our part in prayer is primarily letting God be giver? Suppose prayer is not a duty but the opportunity to experience healing and transforming love?"