We’ve just completed a series on Prayer in our sermons at Great Chart & Singleton – six weeks where we considered ‘ACTION’ prayers – which stand for six aspects of prayer – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Intercession, Obligation, Needs. Three things stand out for me from our series on Prayer, one I knew which became more important to me, one I was reminded of to remember and one which surprised me I’d not noticed before, which are all connected.
The first is that Prayer is a two way relationship between us and God. Maybe you knew this as I did, but it is staggering to think that we can have a relationship with the living almighty God is Heaven by the power of His Holy Spirit who is God among us, and in the name of Jesus who came to earth to die and rise again for us meaning that we can have a relationship with God. This means prayer is never just a shopping list asking God for what we want, or even a fatalistic acceptance of ‘whatever will be will be’ but a fascinating journey of discovery speaking with God about the challenges and disappointments of life and learning from them with God guiding and prompting us on the way.
Therefore I was reminded secondly that whilst prayer is asking God for things (old English ‘I pray thee’ means ‘I ask you’) if we get this relationship right we will ask what is best for us and trust God who loves us and knows what is best. So I won’t ask for a posh villa in the South of France but I will ask for God to move His people to give more generously for the work of the church in proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ because I am passionate that this is the message this world needs.
Thirdly I noticed how little the Bible tells us to say thank you to God for everyday things and bits and pieces that we tend to think we ought to do. Children are taught to say ‘thank you’ all the time. The Lords Prayer does not contain the words ‘thank you’ at all! The Lord’s Prayer doesn’t teach us to say thank you for our daily bread but to ask for our daily bread! However the bible does teach us to be thankful in all situations and to ask in thankfulness with ‘a thankful heart’. Our thankfulness isn’t focused just on all the wonderful things God gives us which can all too easily put the focus on how lucky or blessed or therefore how wonderful I am – ‘thank you God that I have so much money, am so clever, am so gifted’ (like Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector ‘I thank You O God that I am not like other people!’) but our thanksgiving is all about the greatest thing that God has done for us.
We thank God firstly and fore-mostly that He has given us His Son Jesus Christ to die for us to save us. This is why one word we use for our Communion Service is ‘Eucharist’ which means thanksgiving. Once our prayers begin with thanksgiving for all God has done for us in Jesus, the relationship we then have with Him is of foremost importance. Our asking for what we need is all in the light of that, reminded of His great love for us. And our thankfulness for all the blessings both great and small that we have from Him – all that we are, can do or have – remind us of the greatest thing He has given us for which we can never thank Him enough. His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
What an amazing God we pray to!
PS. If you want to explore another recently revived ancient way of praying join us in Great Chart Rectory Garden on Sunday 30th August at 4pm for ‘Labyrinth and Cakes’. Come and learn how to pray walking round our labyrinth cut in the grass and bring a cake to share!