Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Does Prayer Change Anything?

Years ago I recall seeing the phrase 'Prayer Changes Things' around the place.  It could be found on bumper stickers, small ornaments and even posters, usually in the homes of Christians.  I must say that over the years I have often asked myself 'What, then, does prayer change?' especially in times when the heavens have seemed as impenetrable as the snow-filled skies that threaten much of Britain just now. Mind you, the need to pray is often at its strongest at times just like that - when storm clouds fill the horizon. So, does prayer actually change anything?

You won't be surprised to hear that I have concluded that it does.  It changes us first of all.  It positions us to receive from God and to start thinking about His perspective on our problems. It causes us to pray as Jesus advised, 'Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as in heaven'. It brings us to a place where we are God-dependent instead of self-reliant, where we own up to the fact that this thing called life is actually beyond us and that we can't do it alone.

But then it also does make a difference in our circumstances.  Prayer moves the hand that moves the world, not because God is impotent unless we pray, but rather that in his power and sovereignty he has chosen that we should get involved in outcomes by our praying.  'Training for reigning' the writer Paul Bilheimer once called it. The Bible teaches that prayer has power to influence nations (2 Chron. 7:14 & 1 Tim. 2:1) so it should not be underestimated. Maybe sometimes we get the leaders and systems we deserve because we have not recognised or obeyed that imperative.

But I think above all prayer changes the spiritual climate around us. It creates an environment where God's Holy Spirit feels welcome and we can receive his loving thoughts towards us. For this reason prayer can be so much more than words.  Like turning over in bed to cuddle the one you love, prayer can be re-positioning ourselves for intimacy with God.  I was holding my little Pomeranian dog in my arms the other day, when she wasn't very well, and she was sitting heavily on me.  At first I was tempted to put her down and hurry off but I sensed her need to draw strength from my warmth and feel my heartbeat. I enjoyed the closeness to her really. As I gently stroked her tiny head and ears I felt God whisper in mine - 'This is what prayer feels like for me!' Wow - if that is true, then prayer is certainly changing my view of prayer - if nothing else!

Friday, January 04, 2013

A New Start

Coastal View of Guernsey
At the start of this new year I am so grateful to God for the year that has just ended and really looking forward with hope too. After 15 years of dreadful pain and repeated hospital admissions, with horrible experiences of life-threatening situations and disappointments too numerous to mention, it is such a relief to say that things are better now.  This time last year I started full-time work again after over 4 years of being unable to function and the time since then has been full of joy and challenges. We have been given a new start and a new opportunity after so many years of struggle. I am thankful for the love of family and friends and the prayers of so many.  Life has certainly taken on a new dimension for me, in that every day seems so precious and each moment a gift from heaven.

I do feel very keenly for those who still struggle with the kind of pain and difficulties I have known and much worse besides.  'Survivor guilt' is a phrase you might have heard and it describes the feelings of those who have come through dreadful circumstances where others have not and it can be a part of what is now known as post-traumatic stress syndrome.  Well, maybe I don't go that far, but I do feel a deep sense of compassion for my fellow travelers on the pathway of pain and hope that my books and preaching may in some small way contribute to helping them.

May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in him; and may you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).  Happy New Year!