I have been delighted to see how many people have already engaged with events in our year of prayer. Not only, that but parishes across the diocese are organising their own programmes. It has felt a welcome going back to basics of why the church is here. We are too often overwhelmed by our obvious challenges and forget that prayer connects us with the one who holds the future in his hands.
Prayer is confusing! If God is all powerful and all knowing, why do we need to ask him anything? Wouldn’t he unfold his purposes in spite us? What about those prayers that must be in his will, but seem to remain unanswered? But Jesus clearly taught us to ask for things. What are the requests in the Lord’s prayer for God’s will to be done on earth as in heaven and for daily bread, if not prayers for God’s intervention to sustain us and even change our circumstances? Paul advised the Philippian Church ‘in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, to present our requests to God’.
Perhaps our quandary is because we mistake correlation with causation. If we could really twist God’s arm, then it would be about formulas and patterns, with God sitting inactive until the right prayers were offered. Correlation is rather more mysterious. As Archbishop William Temple said, when challenged whether prayer had a point, “When I pray co-incidences happen; when I don’t, they don’t!” In the Lord’s prayer, your will be done follows hallowed be your name. Worship re-orientates the mind to think God’s thoughts after him. A mind so formed is more likely to ask for the things that are on God’s heart. More importantly, such a heart may find itself the answer to its own prayers. A prayer for justice might lead to actions to bring justice. A prayer for more people to come to know Jesus may raise the courage to tell people about him.
I hope the Year of Prayer may lead to a lasting change in our own praying and an increase in the spiritual temperature and our missional fruitfulness. If you haven’t done so already, do join in.