Video for November 2nd, 2023
Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s video.
I’m recording this from the 24/7 prayer international gathering in Vienna. It is a particular joy to be surrounded by so many young people passionate about their faith in Jesus Christ. Pete Grieg the founder of the movement led a prayer day for us a few months ago. If you have never read Pete’s story of the beginning of this movement, ‘Red Moon Rising’ I heartily recommend you give it a go. I re-read it while on holiday this summer, and as the first time, it made me wonder whether I’d missed something fundamental about the Christian faith – certainly in the way that I live it now. It is a story of passionate devotion, inspiring vision and miraculous provision as a group of young people give themselves completely to God and receive back more than they could have possibly imagined. But this is not a movement of wild charismatic excess. They designed the Prayer Course and the Lectio 365 app, which I suspect many of you use. One of the most helpful seminars here has been a meditation on the Rosary from a Roman Catholic speaker! Sharing with a group of passionate young Christians from around the world holds up a mirror to my Anglican tendency to cynicism. I recognise how easily I slip into judgements about eccentricities but don’t allow myself to be challenged to think differently. I note we can disparage the life and vibrancy of some of the newer churches rather than allow them to challenge the way we’ve always done things. They are certainly a lot better at attracting and keeping young Christians than we are.
James Deotis Roberts said, “The real question is whether the gospel of Jesus Christ is like aspirin or dynamite, whether it is a gospel of pacification or a gospel of revolution.” Hearing some of the stories here of God at work in some of the most broken places of the world reminds me that it must be the latter. The level of self-giving amongst the speakers and others in private conversation is a truly humbling example of what the Gospel of Jesus Christ can achieve in a group of people sold out to it.
What I have found particularly inspiring is the holistic approach that characterises the 24/7 prayer movement. This is not prayer as a sort of spiritual self- indulgence, collapsed in on itself – a form of well-being as spirituality. This is a devotion that issues in action in a mission that invites people to become followers of Jesus and work for justice. It is prayer that draws close to God in contemplation, but is then inspired goes out seeking to transform the world in the name of Christ. Only prayer that draws close to God in this way can conceivably live out Paul’s aspiration in Philippians chapter three verse ten. Where he says “I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” It is this vision of the extravagant love of God lavished on us (as one translation of 1 John 3 translates it) that stirs us to the sort of self-sacrificial and subversive service that marked the apostles and every renewal movement in the Church since. This is also why before we even start to think strategically as a diocesan family we must begin with prayer. We are drawing to the end of our year of prayer before we shift into the year of faith. That doesn’t mean we’ve done prayer now! I hope it will encourage us to a deeper personal and corporate practice to undergird what we are to do and be as Christians in this place in this time. Mother Teresa said something like, “the more I have to do, the more time I have to give to prayer beforehand.”
The Germans have a wonderful way of piling words on one another, and not just in Audi adverts. My favourite from this conference is geltungsbedurfnis! It means the need to be recognised as valuable and worthwhile in the eyes of others. It rather nattily summarises the root vice of our culture that so celebrates appearance. The Gospel encourages us not simply to massage the culture but to subvert it. If the cultural media both print and social promotes the values of noise, numbers, and narcissism, we must be people who live differently. P articularly relevant Gospel values seem to me to be silence, depth and self-sacrifice. If this is so fundamentally at odds with our culture, it’s hardly surprising that its so hard to commend it! Only the power of the Spirit, accessed through prayer can both equip us to live like that and for our culture to receive it.