It's been a few weeks since there was the opportunity to write anything. I can't remember which week this should be - and, you know what, that doesn't really matter. What matters is that prayer continues anyway and there will always be occasions when we can't remember what day it is, never mind the details of each day.
Today, I looked at the next reading in this little series that we're sharing and, oh my goodness, how apposite. In Remembrance week the prayer is entitled 'Prayer for a dying son.'
2 Samuel 12:15-18 ...The Lord struck the child the Uriah's wife had borne to David, and he became very ill. David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and went into his house and spent the nights lying on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them. On the seventh day the child died.
Sometimes life is hard, so very hard. We would trade anything, power, wealth, our life itself, for the life of a child. We plead, beg, sob, are torn apart by feelings too deep for words. As Remembrance approaches (this is being written on Nov 8th) we see the parades, the wreaths, the older generation, and give thanks - often without realising the depths of their pain. Yet, because of the sacrifice of others we today are able to live in freedom. Free to chose to ignore Remembrance, or mark it, free to live faith-full lives, or not. Through the individual sacrifices of many came greater good. God knows the pain and is alongside those who suffer today too. God felt the pain of Jesus' death. For all peoples around the world in all times, God gave the one and only Jesus whose sacrifice shows the good news that love lives on - not even death can stop love making an impact in the lives of all. In the mystery of resurrection we know that nothing keeps love down.
We all have moments when we would trade all we have and are for one more gasp at life. God, help us to remember you know our suffering. May there be good in there somewhere, even when we can't see it. Amen.
May God cradle you in love. May God gently comfort you. May God whisper tenderly to you. And may God bring you peace. Amen
The Pharisees were leaders of religion amongst the Jews. Many of them thought they knew it all, the law, the right way to behave, and were happy to make sure everyone else knew how good they were.
God, I thank you that I am not like other people … Luke 18:11
There they are, like the Pharisees, loudly giving orders on their mobile phones, things clipped into their ears and the little microphone round their neck, making sure everyone around them knows how important they are, and everyone aware of their boasting behaviour. Their prayers would be, ‘Thank you for making me a high achiever, a team leader, a go-getter with a huge drive to succeed, no matter the cost, because my way is best. I pray for those with less, less ambition, less interest in success, life’s losers and has-beens. Thank you God, I’m not like them.’
Don’t they realise the irony of their prayers; have they no sense of self-awareness? Their self-importance is so very obvious; as is their lack of empathy for those around them.
God, we pray for ourselves, yes, but we pray that we are aware of what goes on around us; help us to be able to laugh at ourselves and help us to use our energy and talents to serve you, not ourselves. Harness our enthusiasms and give us a dose of reality when we need it. Amen
Sometimes the idea of revenge is so very attractive - how good would that feel, for a short while. Samson is thought of as one of the superheroes of the Old Testament but in reality he was a weak, self-serving man and easily led by his emotions. At the end of his life. He prayed that God would strengthen him once again; to give him personal revenge against the people who had hurt him. His prayer was answered but only through his death. Samson sought not to serve God, but God worked through this situation and severely weakened the enemies of God’s and God’s people.
Reading, Judges 16:28
‘Lord God, remember me and strengthen me only this once, O God, so that with this one act of revenge I may pay back the Philistines for my two eyes.’
We feel like this too -
Battered and beaten, like the plaything of heartless heretics, Godless gloaters, proud and untouchable, emptying us of dignity, sucking out all the joy, perversely delighted in our shrinking.
Violated, we need vindication. Abused, we need an advocate. Alone, we need an ally.
In degradation there is no justice. In revenge there is not goodness.
Broken hearts must not be snuffed out but sing God-honest song:
it hurts God, it hurts but judgement is God’s.
Where else can we go but to God?
Who will listen to us if God does not?
God hears our cry, and we trust in that.
God is stronger than every foe.
When justice comes that’s a sign of God’s kingdom.
Let us trust in that.
We pour out pain and the need for revenge.
We have so little power and so little inclination for mercy.
God has so much of both.
Let us trust in that. Amen
One of the famous people in the Old Testament book of Exodus is Moses.
Moses was a Godly leader,
ie turned to God for guidance on how to live his own life
and how to lead the people.
Moses helped settle disputes
and during the battles the people fought
he stood with his arms outstretched,
holding out his staff of office -
and this was tiring!
‘But Moses’ hands grew weary;
so they took a stone and put it under him,
and he sat on it.
Aaron and Hur held up his hands,
one on one side,
and the other on the other side;
so his hands were steady until the sun set.
Exodus 17, verses 12
Meditation and comment
An odd battle this,
won by the teamwork of Moses, Aaron, Hur and Joshua.
All over the world, people fight for survival,
for justice, for better conditions;
others fight ruthlessly for power, influence, property.
People fight against poverty and persecution;
others fight foolishly against change and delusions.
We join God’s army of past and present ordinary people who do this kingdom work.
Doing it together,
we hold up one another’s hands in praise and prayer.
At the start of our lives of faith we use simple prayers.
As our faith life continues,
we discover different ways of praying;
we search for God’s ways in our lives and in the lives of others.
We come to appreciate and value the support of other people,
in church families, in our own families and around our communities.
Even though it can be hard work, as Aaron and Hur found out,
this is to our mutual benefit.
Prayer can be a delight, can be hard work,
but it’s so helpful in seeking out the wider perspective,
God’s perspective and revealing God’s hands working,
through those around us,
supporting and loving us at all times.
Loving God, you know the tasks before us today and every day.
You know the challenges that lie ahead of everyone,
including the nation’s leaders.
We pray for all in positions of power,
that they may follow wise and honest strategies,
and find the support they need and deserve.
Guide our MPs, MSPs, councillors and public servants.
Bless those who, like Aaron and Hur, support them.
May those who pray, also raise hands in praise.
Help all to have the wisdom to know good from evil,
to be patient with the faults and follies of others,
and to be faithful in the fight for justice and right. Amen
At General Assembly this year, the church committed to a Season of Prayer that will last from September through to December. Using the book, 'Together we Pray', published by Saint Andrew Press, I'll publish a prayer / meditation each week from now until the end of the year. (Some prayers may be slightly adapted to fit our context.)
From 1 Kings 8:43 - This is so Your (God's) reputation will spread all throughout the earth and so all may live in awe and fear of You (God) ...and so all will know that this temple (place of worship) I raised honours Your (God's) reputation.
Within places of worship
centuries of stories are housed:
Walls show great tales of national pride,
of kings, queens, warriors, and heroes
who allowed their lives to become entwined with the communities they represented,
and each word and action offering collective voice
to bring peace and contentment
to the time in which they walked.
Walls show records of rites of passage
as births marriage and death
hope, joy and grief,
excitement, love and pain,
and each finds a resting place
within each generation.
Walls don't show the hidden sagas
of those who have sought support
for individual causes
or relief from their anxieties.
Within these walls each story is embraced
and becomes part of the epic story of faith
offering moments of wonder and awe
as the God's presence is revealed.
God of tent and temple,
God not confined to holy spaces.
Walk with us as we walk with you, each day.
Show us the potential within us
that we may seek to become what you would have us be.