VERSE AND PRAYER for 23rd September

Philippians 1:7-8 “It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and WHETHER I AM IN CHAINS OR DEFENDING AND CONFIRMING THE GOSPEL [emphasis mine] all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with all the affection of Christ Jesus.”

Forgive me if I have mentioned this already to some of you, but these verses took on new meaning for me when I realised that Paul was writing in the ULTIMATE LOCKDOWN situation – prison! Verse 7 shows maybe something of Paul’s frustration that he was not out there “defending and confirming the gospel”, and I am beginning to understand a little of that since I have university missions lined up which now look to be all on Zoom.

Paul did not have Zoom, or even airmail, but he did have prayer. To Paul, this was no last resort. I am learning very very slowly that prayer for each other is not the thing you do when you cannot do the work of the Gospel, it IS the work of the Gospel!

Let’s follow his example, since we are still very restricted and turn our affection to one another into heart-felt longing prayer for one another. Let’s pick at least two people, one from each congregation perhaps so we are more united in prayer as a body, and pray all this week:

Lord Jesus, I pray for _ and _ with all the affection You give me, that they will grow deeply in Your love, that their walk with You will not suffer from our not being able to have church exactly as normal. Feed them with Your word and pour Your Holy Spirit upon them that they may know You more and more. Amen.

VERSE AND PRAYER FOR 16th September


From Peter (whose phone is currently out of action!!🙁)
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power…” (Eph 6:10); “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9); “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die…” (Rev 3:2).

Be strong… often we forget this in our approach to faith. We focus on our weakness and our inability to help ourselves, and yes it is vitally important that we do not try to live the Christian life in our OWN strength, but the message in these verses is about being strong IN THE LORD. How do we do that? Well, tell me if you know because I am not entirely sure! But I think this is the strength of FAITH, of complete reliance on God to live for Him no matter what each day brings; the kind of faith that lays itself down at Jesus’ feet and completely surrenders, saying, “Your will, not mine, be done”, then gets up and faces the cross. At least that was the weakness-turned-to-strength that Jesus showed in Gethsemane.

PRAYER: Lord, of myself I have little strength but You are my Rock. I surrender my complete will and self to You. Take this life and use me; make me strong and bold and courageous for You (with wisdom) whatever personal, emotional, moral, health, family or faith challenges that face me today. Amen.

VERSE AND PRAYER FOR 2nd September


(Revelation 3:2-3)

“Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent.”

Ouch! As I write this, I am in my early-morning drowsiness and don’t feel very awake. But this is a verse that has been buzzing round my head for a few days and I am still wondering what it means specifically for me.

When Jesus tells us tough things it is ALWAYS for our good and out of love. There have been times when there were aspects of my faith that lay dormant and asleep and God needed to wake me up. But waking up spiritually can take some determination and we need God’s help. I found that, like muscles not used in a long time, my faith had atrophied and I needed exercise again (still a work in progress!).

Lockdown, for some, has been a great time of renewal as they take the opportunity to dig into God’s word. For others, distance from routines of fellowship and teaching has led to weak spiritual muscles. And yes, I feel a bit out of condition some days, too!

Let’s see the hope and love behind these tough words from Jesus, take the encouragement intended and do as He says. Ask God to use Lockdown to aid our walk with Him, not slip into sleepiness.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank you that when you say things like this, it is not to condemn but to encourage and stimulate us to love and faithfulness and a closer walk with You. Show me where I am getting spiritually “out of condition” and give me a desire to get “fit” again. Amen.

VERSE AND PRAYER FOR 26th August

Psalm 63:1-5
“You, God, are my God,
Earnestly I seek You;
I thirst for You
My whole being longs for You,
In a dry and parched land where there is no water.
I have seen You in the sanctuary
And beheld Your power and Your glory.
Because Your love is better than life,
My lips will glorify You.
I will praise You as long as I live,
And in Your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be satisfied as with the richest if foods;
With singing lips my mouth will praise You.”

The traditional heading of this psalm gives the occasion for writing: “…of David. When he was in the Desert of Judah.”

I once walked in the desert in Israel, beautiful but desolate and as arid as can be. Yet even in such a place, or perhaps BECAUSE he was in such a place, David’s greatest longing of all came out in this song, not for food or water, but for the tangible presence of the Lord.

Jesus hints that we may lose our hunger and thirst for Him: “but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful” (Mark 4:19). Probably this has been true of me, and most of us, if we are honest: we love Jesus, but there are always other things to take our attention. Even good things in the wrong proportions can squeeze out our passion for the Lord, our hunger and thirst for Him.

Some of you may remember me talking of the time when I was eating five Cadbury’s Cream Eggs a day; we lived near the factory where they sold large bags of seconds (not what the government meant by “5-a-day”!!).

I had to stop doing that! The problem was not my weight or my teeth, but my appetite. I was so full of sugar (enough to power a small city) that I had no desire for good, healthy food (even Lynette’s!). I had to go on a sugar-fast to break by cream egg habit!

What is it that takes away our appetite for the Lord? Do we have to find ourselves in a desert before we will long for Him? Surely it is better to take a look at what fills our lives, even the good things, and ask, do I truly hunger and thirst for Him? Does Jesus satisfy me “as with the richest of foods”? We may need to draw back on some things for a while to retrain our appetites.

Some of us may feel that Lockdown is like being in the desert. In which case, let’s thank God and take the opportunity to nurture our hunger for Him, a chance to refocus and retrain our appetite.

PRAYER: (first pray Psalm 63 above as a personal prayer). Lord, show me what is dampening my appetite for You. If it is something unavoidable at the moment, show me how to use my circumstances to draw nearer to You rather than be dragged away. Deepen my desire for being close to You. Thank you that we CAN know You so intimately and that You alone can truly fill us to overflowing.

Amen

VERSE AND PRAYER for 19th August

IMPOSSIBLE BUT COMPULSORY
(Ephesians 5:1-2)
“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

This can be listed among a number of verses that we could label, “Impossible but compulsory”, along with: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…”; “Love your neighbour…”; “Love your enemies…”

In Mark’s version of the Rich Young Man story (Mark 10:17-31), we are told that, “Jesus looked at him and LOVED him” (v21), before dealing the ‘killer’ command (impossible but compulsory), “One thing you lack… Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

There is no wriggling out of it; we are called to live a wonderful but sacrificial life of extravagant love, if we are to truly follow God’s example in Jesus. I know I want to (well, most of me wants to), but I cannot help thinking, “Impossible!!!”.

Yet a few verses down in Mark’s story, Jesus gives the answer: “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God” (v27).

So… what do we do? Living a life of love involves (a) looking to the example of true love shown by Christ on the cross, (b) realising that this means YOU and I are truly loved, (c), coming before God and saying, “Lord, this is impossible for me, but You command it, so as I do what I can, please do the rest,” and (d), as the old hymn puts it, ‘trust and obey…’

PRAYER: Father, in Your love you command each of us to live a whole life of love. Let me not shrink away from the cost as the Rich Young Man did, but ‘trust and obey’. I cannot obey this command by myself but give me the power, opportunity and faith to express Your love today in practical ways. Amen

WORD AND PRAYER FOR 5th August

“Give us our daily bread…”

When I pray the Lord’s Prayer, I mumble this bit, hardly thinking about it because it seems that whether I pray it of not, I will have enough to eat – a privilege of living as a middle class person in a First World country.

But then I have been reading about Open Doors work where they are trying to get enough food to Christians overlooked or ignored in government emergency relief e.g. in India, also about work in Uganda amongst orphans and also reading the Vokuhls’ prayer letter about families starving because of lockdown intended to protect the country as well as a plague of locusts spreading over from Africa, it seems very trite of me to simply assume that this verse in the Lord’s prayer does not apply much to me.

Rather, I am learning that (a) Jesus is the Bread of Life, whatever I have in this world, I desperately need Him every day; (b) that I can pray for my brothers and sister in Nepal (for example) to get the daily bread they need to avoid starvation, (c), to do something, even something small, to help them.

If I think we have “Got it covered, Lord, so no need for You on this one, thanks,” it is not exactly a sign of a spiritually healthy heart.

However we feel about it, we ARE dependent on the Lord, so let’s praise and thank Him for it anyway, even if we DO know where our next meal is coming from.

PRAYER:
Lord, firstly, give our Christian family in __ today their daily bread. Please also provide our food for today. Thank you that I rarely have to worry about getting enough but may that lead to compassion and ACTION for others who cannot know where their next meal is coming from, especially during lockdown. Forgive me for assuming that this prayer does not apply to me just because of my circumstances. Thank you for Your abundant blessings. As I eat today, may it be a celebration of Your goodness. And use my abundance to help others in need, too.

Amen

MESSAGE AND PRAYER FOR 29th July

(Mark 11:22-25)
“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask fir in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

I recently had to reluctantly say no to our youngest daughter, Madeline, regarding a trip with her friends because of lockdown rules. Disappointed, I told her that Mum and I have a policy of always saying yes if we possibly can to our kids if the request is suitable and reasonable. That may have been a mistake to tell her, as her eyes lit up, wondering what else she could ask for next!!!

And in fact, the next day, she and her sister sat us down to ask if we could go on holiday to France instead. And we were happy to say yes! In the end Madeline got far more than she originally asked for 😊.

This verse is not Jesus teaching “name it and claim it”, but rather to teach us to simply believe God will answer. If it wasn’t for this, I would always be hedging my bets, trying to prepare myself in case He doesn’t. Rather, He wants us to treat Him with the respect and courtesy that befits His position. He can and will answer His children’s requests. We are not to undermine our own prayers by thinking, “He’s never going to say yes.” Those sort of prayers are not worth the name. Rather, we go to Him in the full expectation that He is glad to say yes!

We may need to keep praying and we need to listen to Him to guide us as we pray. But His will is to say “yes” as often as He can!

One thing we must do, though. If we expect to be heard, we MUST forgive others. Otherwise, His fingers will be in His ears.

PRAYER: Father, firstly I forgive _ from my heart. Secondly, thank You that You long to say yes to Your children when our requests come in faith and trust in Your love. Today my request is ___. Thank You in anticipation as I patiently await Your answer.

Amen

MESSAGE OF THE DAY for 22nd July

Today finds me in a hospital clinic waiting for Laura’s check up, so unable to do a “normal” verse and prayer. But wanted to share something with you that I hope is useful.

Over the past year I have rediscovered the joy of reading good Christian books. There are tons out there (not all of them good, admittedly, you do have to be discerning). But some months ago I felt I should – for a season – replace reading novels with reading biographies, missionary stories and testimonies. What I have found is that the adventure of real people following the Lord Jesus in a life of faith is FAR more exciting, interesting and uplifting than any number of novels. I do not miss novels one bit! Even if reading is not your thing, just try one or two.

I would never recommend Christian books INSTEAD if the Bible, but rather I have found that good Christian books inspire me to read the Bible more.

Here’s a few of my top choices:

God’s Smuggler (all time favourite), by Brother Andrew

Chasing the Dragon, Jackie Pullinger

Living on the Devil’s Doorstep, Floyd McClung (love it!!)

Is that Really You, God? Lorren Cunningham (about trusting and hearing God’s voice)

Open Door, Maud Kells (missions in Africa)

Rebirth of a Brahmin (can’t remember author, sorry!)

I Dared to Call Him Father, Bilquis Sheik (classic of a Muslim coming to know Jesus)

Anything by Simon Guillebaud (up to date and very challenging)

The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom (a classic)

And lots, lots more if you are interested (let me know if you want a more comprehensive list).

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the fine examples of the life of faith that we can read. Thank you most of all for the stories from Scripture that build and strengthen our hearts, but also more modern examples of faith in action. Guide and inspire us to access and value this treasure we have. Amen.

VERSE AND PRAYER FOR 13th July

2 Samuel 9:3 & 7, ‘The king [David] asked, “Is there no one still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?”
‘Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in both feet.”
V7
‘David said to [Mephibosheth], “…I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”‘

This is an incredible story of kindness. When a king of a new dynasty gains the throne, the shrewd thing to do is to wipe out ALL opposition, NOT seek out the one person who can be a rallying point for supporters of the old regime, and not only give him a power base (masses of land and wealth), but also a place in the new administration (joining the discussions on the affairs of state with the king and his sons at mealtimes).

Yet David does all this to show GOD’S kindness.

A definition of kindness might be “grace with dirty fingernails”, that is, undeserved favour shown in real, practical ways, even to our own cost.

PRAYER: Lord, please show me how to demonstrate your kindness to others, even our ‘enemies’, or people who dislike us or who oppose us. Let it not be based on anything they do or do not deserve, but simply an outflow of your kindness to me in Christ.

Show me where I can demonstrate ‘grace with dirty fingernails’ this week. Amen.

VERSE AND PRAYER FOR THE DAY 8th July

1 Thess 2:11-12
“For you know that we dealt with you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His Kingdom and glory.”

Although here it is Paul speaking to the Thessalonian Christians to describe his actions of love among them, it reminds me that Paul is simply reflecting God’s tender care to all of us:

Psalm 103:13
“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.”

The reason I am including both of these is simply to share a pattern I have found helpful. When I come to read the Bible, I start each time by pausing and praying something like this:

“Lord, speak to me as I read Your word as a father speaks to his child, to teach, encourage, correct, strengthen, delight, comfort and reassure. And may I as your child listen in love and obedience.”

I have found the Lord only too glad to answer this as His intention is to do exactly that – IF WE WILL LET HIM! 🙂

Peter