The importance of prayer
An ICM poll published in March claims that 4 out of 5 British adults believe in the power of prayer. 85% of women claim to pray and surprisingly the young and the old are more likely to pray than the middle aged.
An end to world poverty, exam success and family and friends' health also featured in the list of most prayed-for topics. Only 14% of participants said they would never pray and 5% said they would not know what to pray for.
The Bishop of St Albans, the Right Reverend Dr Alan Smith, said money and employment worries were leading more people to come and talk to him about prayer.
He said: "Prayer is one of the most natural and instinctive of human responses, so I am not surprised to see these findings. I come across people on an almost daily basis who wants to talk about prayer and how to do it. There has also been a desire to pray for troubled spots in the world, not least when we see the appalling photos from Syria on the television."
This survey was blasted by the British Humanist Society and the regular atheist commentators in The Guardian (probably the most secular of our national papers). They do though, have a point, for what is prayer? A naïve belief that we can change the movement of the jet stream for the sake of a Summer Fayre seems laughable, but many believe it possible, forgetting the impact of such a change on other parts of the world! We pray for world peace, and end to poverty, for those seriously ill. All these prayer are valid and unselfish. Many though, only pray very childlike prayers for blessing on ‘Granny, Grandpa and the Tiggy, the cat!’ Or we pray for personal wellbeing – some for personal wealth.
Prayer is complex and yet simple. We believe in a God who hears us, Jesus taught us to pray ‘Our Father ….’ He taught the importance of praying correctly (analyze the Lord’s Prayer and read John chapter 17, the longest recorded prayer of Jesus). He prayed alone and with his disciples. He prayed in the Temple and synagogues with congregations. But prayer should be to place you into the hands of God, to rely and trust in Him. Prayer should motivate us to action. It really is no good praying for good health and indulging in gluttony, alcohol and smoking abuse! It’s hypocritical to pray for peace and be at enmity with a family member or neighbour. It’s hypocritical to pray against poverty and never to give to charity.
If 4 out of 5 Britain’s really took prayer seriously, they would – we would, be a changed society. The reality is that we need a mature and committed faith. Prayer is to put us into a trusting relationship with God through Christ, anything else is superstition.
May marks three great spiritual truths. We begin with the Ascension on the 9th, which celebrates Christ returning to heaven – synthesizing in his body both humanity and divinity at the heart of the Godhead. Ten days later we celebrate Pentecost, when the Lord sent the Holy Spirit to be permanently with his followers (the life energy that enables our prayers and witness). And one week later, we remember the unique and it must be said, complex doctrine of the Trinity, something that causes perpetual confusion to Jews and Muslims! How can Christians claim to worship One God but as Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Jehovah’s Witnesses also firmly reject the Trinity, but belief in the Trinity is found firmly in scripture (although the term is not used) and has from earliest times been a test of Christian orthodoxy (hence the ancient creeds we recite in church).
These doctrines go to teach on great truth, real prayer in addressed to the Father, through the Son and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Such prayer is always acknowledged by God, but not always answered as we might wish! True prayer is to align ourselves with the Lord and trust in Him, not matter what may befall us. Such prayer is demanding, requires trust and above all real faith; it’s not for the faint hearted – this is the prayer we should be offering. Are you willing to learn about such prayer? Are you willing to commit to such prayer? Only such prayer will find true answers – answers that may yet confound the skeptics. Prayer lay at the heart of Jesus’ life and ministry, may it be central in our lives too.
Is to help people into a relationship with God, through Jesus Christ and help them to grow in that relationship.
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