Pray Continually

Do you ever wonder if prayer really works?  Do you worry about who you are praying for and who you should be praying for?  1 Thessalonians 5 says “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  That’s quite a demand!

I read the following story this week.   My prayer is that it encourages you as it encouraged me.

Adrian does some supply work in secondary schools.

Like many a teacher, when he’s set the pupils some work, he often walks up and down the class, pausing here and there at a desk. No doubt the pupils think he is glancing over their work. No doubt sometimes he is. But often he’s praying for them by name. To remember that God loves every one of these pupils, that God answers prayer, and to pray and trust him for the answers, even though Adrian is very unlikely to see any difference himself, or be able to tell anyone else that something amazing has happened…

One day, like any other day, Adrian is in a class of 14-year-olds. He’s set them some work. He walks up and down the class. He stops by one of the boys and begins to pray. And then he hears God say this to him:

“No one has ever mentioned this boy’s name to me before.”

Imagine that! No one has ever mentioned this boy’s name to God before. No midwife, no health visitor, no parent, no uncle or aunt or grandparent, no sibling, no godparent, no lollipop person, no doctor, no primary school teacher, no football coach or sweetshop owner or bus driver, no schoolfriend… no one.

But God was listening, waiting it seems, alert at that moment to the fact that, though there are 7.8 billion people on his planet, and no doubt hundreds of thousands of prayers being offered at that very moment, someone was at last lifting this particular 14-year-old person to his throne. To him.

God hears every prayer!

God cares for every person. Indeed, one might wonder why Adrian chose to stop at that particular desk and pray for that particular boy. After all, he didn’t stop at every desk or pray for every child in the class. Perhaps God really wanted someone to pray for that particular boy, yearned for that boy to be lifted to his throne. And worked through Adrian to bring it about.

There is mystery here, but praying for the people around us, as we are led, however briefly, is something we can all do. And when Jesus returns, we will indeed get to see how he has worked through the things we regard as little, and created something gloriously beautiful.

Who could you pray for, right now?

[from Alison Franks]

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Technically Speaking

From the start of Lockdown, it is not just the church family which has had to adapt and develop. The church’s Audio Visual has undergone constant tweaking.

The current church was opened in 1902 when the way to reach out to more people was to shout a bit louder. Over the years we have introduced microphones, loudspeakers, loop system, and the sound mixing desk. We have expanded from a basic hearing loop system to a wired microphone for the minister and Scripture reader. We have extended still further to a full praise band and a wireless microphone for the minister. Hardware and the computer systems have been upgraded over the years. This has meant extensions to existing cables, splitting microphone controls and new adaptors joining old sockets with new technology connections. All perfectly serviceable and all pretty cheap.

This year we found that we had to extend and adapt still further. Initially all services were brought from, and delivered, to the comfort of our own homes. All we needed was the Zoom subscription and each person to have access to Wi-Fi or data. For the foreseeable future we are looking at a hybrid where we provide the main worship service for people who are physically in church and simultaneously through Zoom for those at home.

We bought and installed a cheap computer camera. This was great and allowed the Church family to see both the speaker and the congregation who were in the church. We routed the minister’s microphone through the existing sound desk and out through Zoom. But the old cabling could not carry these new sound and vision requirements, so we bought a new length of cable to feed from the sound desk to the front camera. With so many cables around sometimes there is interference triggered that affects the sound quality. Happily, we have a team of volunteers who know what they are doing and have been quietly and cheaply making changes. It reminds me of the informal motto of the Royal Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers: “adapt, improve, improvise and overcome.”

We are getting there. We already have a good basic system and will improve on this for the future. But please bear with us if you hear the odd hiss or crackle, or if the sound blinks in and out.

After all, even Jesus changed his infrastructure:

Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge.

Mark 4:1

The science of physics has since shown the effectiveness of His actions, for we know that the sound waves of His voice would have bounced over the water into the natural auditorium of the land. Please pray for the continuing sound waves and the internet auditorium of SSCB.

[from Timothy Pitt]

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Lavender Prayer: Summary

So what just happened over these past seven weeks? I believe I received a picture in answer to my prayer; a picture for us all as individuals and as a church family. I believe that God can and does speak clearly to people – the picture of lavender flowers that I received was clear.

If, in this instance, I had received a picture of lavender flowers and left it there then yes, it would have been nothing but a lovely fluffy image. I think my further prayer, research and article writing served to give me – us – ownership of what God was saying.

God has shown me (and I hope all who have read the articles) that He does speak, that his message is not hidden or secret, that His message is relevant and that there is a reason not just for the message but for how it is delivered.

For you, do these articles line up with the tests we set at the start:

  • Does it line up with Scripture?
  • Does it line up with the character of God?
  • Does it line up with what God is doing with your life?
  • Does your spirit bear witness with the Word?
  • Does it receive approval when you seek the counsel of others?
  • Does it glorify God?

Where does that leave you? Only you can consider, pray and answer that. Through this simple image of lavender flowers, do you have a sense of:

  • Purity – are we blessed, admonished and encouraged into purity of life?
  • Silence – can we use silence and solitude to worship God as we wait on Him?
  • Devotion – in devoting ourselves to God, can we find an awe in our very souls?
  • Caution – can we pause to consider God, be of good behaviour in sanctifying Jesus?
  • Serenity – can we enjoy fellowship with Jesus, loving the serenity of His peace?
  • Grace – can we accept God’s gift then take it, grow it and share it?
  • Calmness – can you see and take the calming strength of Jesus?

So the question, then, is what are you going to do about it? First, I would suggest, is to consider how we can all live the life of lavender in SSCB. Second is perhaps just as the banner says: “Try praying.”

And a final thought. The English word lavender is thought to come from the Old French lavandre; ultimately the Latin lavare (to wash). Thank you, Jesus, that we are washed in the blood of the Lamb. Amen

[from Timothy Pitt]

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Pray Across the Pond – Postponed till October!

We apologise but our planned Pray Across the Pond prayer sharing with La Jolla Christian Fellowship is postponed till October. Other engagements on both sides of the Pond prevent us from engaging in this event on the original date.

We will give information of the new date in due time. Meanwhile you should not stop praying though, even if you are not on Zoom.

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Praise of the Week: Be Thou My Vision (8th Century AD)

In honour of a missionary a national holiday is established and even rivers turned green! That missionary is none but St Patrick, the missionary to Ireland.

Patrick was born in AD 373, along the banks of the river Clyde. His father was a deacon, and his grandfather was a priest. When Patrick was about 16, raiders stormed and torched their town. Patrick tried to hide, but one of the raiders spotted him and dragged him out of the bushes, hauled aboard the boat and took him to Ireland, as a slave. His conversion took place there. Later he wrote: “The Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart tot he Lord, my God.”

Eventually Patrick escaped and returned home. His family was overjoyed to have him back, not wanting to lose him again. But one night, in a dream, very similar to Paul’s vision of the Macedonian man in Acts 16, Patrick saw an Irishman pleading with him to come evangelise Ireland.

Patrick was about 30 years old when he returned to his former captors with the Gospel of Jesus. As he preached multitudes came to listen. The Druids opposed him and tried to kill him. But this did not deter him. Patrick’s preaching was powerful and blessed by the Lord. It is reckoned that he planted some 200 churches, baptising thousands and thousands of people.

Patrick’s ministry endured long after he went to be with the Lord. Centuries later the Irish church continued producing hymns, prayers, songs of worship and sermons. In the 8th Century an unknown poet wrote a prayer asking God to be his Vision, his Wisdom, his Best Thought day and night.

In 1905, Mary Eliza Byrne, a Dublin scholar, translated the ancient poem into English. Another scholar, Eleanor Hull, in Manchester, crafted the translation into verses and metre, which then was set to a traditional Irish folk tune, called Slane. Through this praise Patrick’s ministry still endures, inspires and blesses us.

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Learning To Dance In The Rain

“For I know the plans I have for you” said the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”. 

Jeremiah 29:11

I’ve often clung to this passage from Jeremiah, this promise from the creator of the universe that he intends for us to prosper, to flourish, to bloom.

On the dark days it can be hard to keep it in focus, easier to dwell on the suffering of the now, but the promise is always there. It was there for the Israelites in the wilderness, it was there for persecuted Christians across the ages, it is there during times of war and peace and it is there now for you and I.

Let’s take a moment to think about it. The creator of the cosmos wants you to prosper.  He gave his only Son to die for you. He knows every hair on your head, he has plans for you, he plans to give you hope and a future.

I felt challenged recently to imagine what that looks like in our current situation. Within our current limitations, what does it look like to prosper, to thrive not just survive? Rather than waiting for the storm to pass, how can we help each other to thrive and prosper now? 

Change hits us all like a tornado, swiftly and unexpectedly changing our ‘normal’ overnight. We adapted quickly into survival mode and survived the first six months. We have enjoyed finding fellowship in unexpected places. Now that this ‘new normal’ looks set to be with us for a while how will we respond? Do we lay low and wait for the storm to pass? Or do we continue to adapt and learn to dance in the rain? Do we learn to thrive or do we simply survive? 

Please pray

  • Lord God thank you for your promise to prosper me. Help me to remember that promise on dark days.
  • Lord we want to thrive in your promise and serve our church family and community. Grant us wisdom and courage to do this in this ‘new normal’.
  • Guide us God. Whisper your plans into our hearts, guide our words and feet.

What plans has God laid on your heart? If you hear God whispering plans, please share them with our church family. We are all learning to dance in the rain.

[from Cat Rawlinson-Watkins]

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New Sermon Series Coming Soon: New Normal

The Coronavirus pandemic very much turned our world and life upside down. At the beginning of the year none of us imagined we could be in the circumstances we and the whole world find ourselves for the last five-six months.

We had to adopt new ways of living, isolating, communicating. We had to review our plans and hopes for the future. We learnt new expressions, like social distancing, Zoom, and New Normal. At the beginning of the year I planned a sermon series for early autumn on prayer – Praying with Paul. The series would have been a kind of follow up of the series we had last year: Paying with Jesus. Well, in normal circumstances we would do Praying with Paul. But we find ourselves in New Normal. And to be absolutely honest, nobody really knows what New Normal means. We feel very much lost and disorientated in this New Normal. Many hope that the so called New Normal will somehow, someday turn back to the old familiar Normal. I seriously doubt it! Not in our daily life, shopping, work, education, holiday, or even church. I believe New Normal is going to stay, and stay for a long time. We better get prepared for it.

I hope the sermon series ‘New Normal’ will help us to consider, explore what we need to do not only to survive but to thrive in the New Normal. Jesus stated with authority that “I have come that they may have life, and have life to the full.” (John 10:10b). We will focus on the Lord and His Word to lead us in our present circumstances that we will have life to the full as He promised and made possible for everyone who listens to Him and trusts in Him. For Jesus assures us that

“everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”

Matthew 7:24-25

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Another Prayer Across the Pond

On the 8th of August we had a new prayer initiative as we prayed together with brothers and sisters in Christ from La Jolla Christian Fellowship, San Diego, USA. It was a blessed hour to share, pray and laugh together.

We will join together in prayer again at 17:00 on Saturday, 19th September. We invite you to be part of it too. Nominated people from both church families will pray on particular subjects. The church families are invited to pray along, silently, or joining in aloud at appropriate times.

This is part of exploring a possible international relationship, whether that is simply to know them and hold them in our prayers, or perhaps developing into something more than that. We lift this up to the Lord to guide both of us. We have got great possibilities, it is up to the Lord and us what we will make of them.

We will send out an update with more details and about the logistics of joining the prayer time. If you have any questions or comments please let us know by emailing to office@comelybankchurch.com.

Meantime, please pray for this new prayer initiative and put it in your diaries – just one hour, at 17:00 on 19th September – and be part of it.

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Lavender Prayer: 7. Calmness

Is there a Godly calmness in Lavender? What does God mean by it? Test it. I found myself thinking of Jesus calming the storm. Jesus was in the boat with the disciples, in the middle of the storm – and yet he was able to sleep through it. But then he knew he was protected, just as David had written: “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8)

So if we just ‘know’ that we are protected, we can sleep in peace and be calm, right? Is that the message of calmness? I think the call to calmness for our church family at this time is the calmness that we can give out to others. Remember: physical distancing, not social distancing.

We can hold on to Jesus because we know that he has an even firmer hold of us – it is the triumph of our hope. We are still going through a time of trouble through the coronavirus – we need God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). And we know that we can come to him in prayer – that we should come to Him in prayer. Where does that leave us? It leaves us firmly in the Letter to the Romans:

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Romans 12:12

And how do we take this joy, this patience and this faithfulness and use it to help and encourage others? How does this provide calmness?

Look again at the lavender; pause and live. In that moment, we can adore Jesus. We can take that calmness, that quiet assurance, and go out to other people – be a witness in what we say, what we do, how we act.

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,”

1 Peter 3:15

And that calmness of how we do it will so often be what is noticed, as others say to themselves: “That ‘way’ of Christ; it is true. I want that in my life.”

As we look at the lavender, we can gain a feeling of calmness. It is a strength. The calming strength of Jesus.

[from Timothy Pitt, elder]

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New Normal?

We are emerging, slowly, from a period of hibernation brought about by the lockdown, a slowdown from virtually all activities which are part of everyday life. For many the lack of normal contact with other people has been the hardest part – no conversations, no cake, no laughter, no life. We all hope for something different, real life to resume. But will it, and what will it look like? Will we like the ‘new normal’?

I think this may be a reflection on the Christian life for many of us. Are we waiting for something new – that promise of heaven – and not really sure what it will be? We have recently spent time in prayer for ‘Thy kingdom come’, and the scripture goes on ‘on earth as it is in heaven’. During his life Jesus often talked about the Kingdom being near, and that His death would usher in that Kingdom. He never said we would go to heaven, rather that His Kingdom would be established on earth.

So, are we waiting for something, we’re not sure what, to happen in the future, or are we living the life of that kingdom now? The early disciples were clear that the events of Easter changed the world, they were living in God’s kingdom, not Caesar’s, and so they were encouraged to look forward with hope. The first century apostles had seen ‘resurrection’ because they had seen Jesus, alive and well. As we break out of the Covid lockdown, let us also break out of the old life into resurrection life.

But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.”

1 Thessalonians 5:8-10; NIV

[from John Baggaley, Session Clerk]

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