Vicar's June Letter

Revd. Angela Walker    

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 we are encouraged to “Pray without ceasing.” Prayer for the Christian should be like breathing, so natural that we are hardly conscious of doing it.

However, as believers we are often concerned or worried about prayer wondering; when’s the best time to pray? How should I pray? How long? Where? Am I praying enough?

“Prayer is conversation with God.” (St. Clement) Anytime or anywhere we talk with God, we’re praying. Not just during morning devotions, but at our work desks, while driving, walking the dog or singing. At the kitchen sink or stove, as well as at church. Conversation is a dialogue involving listening, too. Wherever we listen and hear God’s voice is a place of prayer. In the voice of a friend, or even a child. Perhaps in the lyrics of a song, amidst nature’s beauty, or in a Bible study group. Studying scripture is listening to the Living Word and communing with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth; that, too, is prayer. God sprinkles our ordinary lives with prayer.

Just sitting in the presence of God can be prayer, in quiet study or contemplation, in total silence or in noisy tears too we are often praying as our hearts reach out beyond ourselves. Prayer is both contemplation and communion with God. More than something we do, prayer is actually a way of being, being attentive, being in his presence, being his child. This is the only way that we can really pray without ceasing. And this is the prayer life that God wants for each of us.

Being mindful of God’s presence with us, Prayer becomes simple and easy because it is all about communion with God, heart to heart.  That is what the 24/7 prayer room was all about; creating a space for people to sit and commune with God; a place of quiet contemplation. A place where we could relax in God’s presence and hear his voice.

This was our third year of running the prayer room in Sole Street. And the exciting thing about it is that it is a global event. Christians all over the world signed up to pray for revival, to pray for an outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit upon all people that others may come into a personal relationship with the living God.

I will be going off to ‘New-Wine’ again this year with a few others from church to gather with thousands of other Christians to worship, pray and listen to good teaching. Whenever we set aside time to be with God like this we often hear his voice and come away refreshed and filled with the Holy Spirit.

I am looking forward to hearing what God has to say to me this year and I am also looking forward to hearing the testimonies of others who spent time in the prayer room communing with God. Maybe I will have some testimonies to share with you next month. But I want to encourage you to spend time in God’s presence for yourself. So that you may have your own personal testimony.

Find a quiet place, a favourite chair, light a candle and sit quietly asking God to meet with you. Pray that God will speak to you. Read a small portion of the bible and then just sit and listen for his voice. If your mind wonders to the thousand and one things that need doing just make a note of them, jot them down so you don’t have to try and remember what needs doing. And then you can forget about them until you finish your prayer time.

Remember you do not need lots of words just a desire to be with God and to know him. Prayer and meditation is not about trying to empty your mind though, it is about filling your mind and all your senses with God.

May God bless you as you seek him in prayerful silence

Revd Angela Walker

 

Recently I attended a conference at the ‘City Gates’ church in Ilford. I was inspired to hear the story of their building and the life of their pastor Stephen Derbyshire.

Stephen grew up in St Helens and hated going to school he was gripped with fear, he eventually rebelled by skipping school and hanging around with his mates drinking. His parents attended the local Methodist church and Stephen hated this too; he found church boring. Inside he was full of anger and relished a fight. Eventually he turned to drugs and soon became addicted to hard drugs. Eventually leaving home he ended up living in digs with other drug abusers. Stealing to fund his life style and violence were all he knew. But his father was a man of prayer and he prayed constantly for Stephen. Eventually Stephen tried to commit suicide but it was a failed attempt.

In his own words he says, ‘life was spiralling out of control, I was unable to break free from addiction and was enveloped by a suffocating blackness that seemed certain to extinguish my life.’ At his lowest ebb he cried out to God for a miracle and he got one. It was the beginning of a process of supernatural restoration that would see a life of purpose rise out of the ruins. Since then he has committed his life to helping others experience this same transformation.

His story is a story of restoration from ruin where God miraculously stepped in and saved him. He is now a Christian and a pastor of City Gates church in Ilford. But the story of the building of this church echoes that of his own life as during the build, the whole church collapsed. What was initially to be a nine million pound building turned into a twelve million pound project. The church stands five floors high in the centre of Ilford and is an impressive structure that attracts over thirty nationalities to worship each week. Stephen tells his story in his book ‘Out of the ruins’ by Stephen Derbyshire published by RIVER publishing.

It is a dramatic story of a life rescued, restored and filled with purpose.

God is in the business of changing lives, but for some people that seems to translate into, God wants to stop me doing what I want and make me live by his rules. For myself and for those I know who, like me, have given their lives to Jesus this is not our experience. The experience of becoming a Christian is much more like that described above of a total transformation. God rescues us from darkness and brings us into glorious light.

At ‘New - Wine’ Christian events many people experience this life transforming encounter with the living God. Michelle who also turned to drugs and suffered from psychotic episodes ended up in hospital. She eventually cried out for God to save her and he did. She then had prayer to be filled with the Holy Spirit and she says ‘it was like a light being switched on inside me. I feel alive in a way that I never felt before.’

There were stories of people being healed, relationships being restored and people encountering a God of love that healed their emotional state and left them knowing they were loved beyond measure.

Rather than life with God being defined by rule keeping, life with God is more like an exciting journey. Sometimes you never know where you will end up but it always turns out better than you expect it to be. I have encountered God personally so many times and in so many ways that I know he can transform anyone, no matter how difficult their circumstances are. All it takes is a real desire for God.

I shall be going back again this year to New-Wine summer camp to be refreshed in the Holy Spirit and looking forward to all that God will do in me and in the lives of others as we gather to worship him. However, before that we will be running our prayer room in the St Mary Church Room in Sole Street again from the 29th May – 3rd June why not come along and seek an encounter with God for yourself?

Every Blessing Revd Angela Walker.