a gift to 2017, with love from psalm 72

February 22nd, 2017

It’s a wrestle to pray for world leaders at the moment isn’t it? You can feel the tension without even taking in the day’s headlines, or looking at your social media feed to see what latest month’s worth of news has happened in just 24 hours, and who is – often understandably – incensed by it…


Post Brexit and post ‘Trump’, there is a deluge of information, rhetoric and reaction and – among many – a sense of confusion, bewilderment and even hopelessness.

But this is not the first time leaders have done things that many of their people struggle with. And it is also is not the first time Jesus’ followers have found themselves at odds with those who exclude and exploit… or those who dehumanise the excluders and exploiters.

And so, not only is there always hope; there is also always practical help with how to pray too.

For us, as so often in times of struggle, some of the most pertinent help has come from the book of Psalms; a precious collection of raw-voiced responses to every imaginable context in which the people of God might want – or need- to fall on their knees and pray…

This time, the re-orientating rescue came when our cycle reached Psalm 72 a few days ago…

Take a few minutes to read it now.

It’s an interesting one – a prayer for the King to lead well and a blessing on him to live long as defender of the needy… blessing all nations through his righteousness.

The psalm is attributed to Solomon, but its last lines voice it as the final prayer of King David.

Commentators always enjoy debating this kind of thing, but most of them form the likely conclusion that Solomon crafted the song after a prayer David spoke, perhaps on his death bed, and the fact it makes references to both the King and the king’s son underlines this…

So why is a thousands of years old poem written to speak blessing on the kings of the historic kingdom of Israel a gift to us and our intercession in the troubled opening months of this year?

Because it brings us back to three important truths:

1. When we pray for leaders, it must be with respect for both the image of God they bear and the authority they have been given – yes, very uncomfortable sometimes, but given, even if the purpose of why is unclear. (See 1 Timothy 2:1-2 and Romans 13:1)

2. When our minds are confused, and our emotions are high and our hearts are genuinely broken at the rhetoric and actions being taken in the name of our nation, or our faith, it’s hard to pray for those responsible in love. Instead of remembering who our battle is against (see 2 Corinthians 10:1-5) we turn our prayers against those who oppose what we believe to be righteous.

But Psalm 72 brings us back to what the vision of a truly godly leader is… and leads us in the example of praying for the leader in question to step up and into a demonstration of these things, through a transformation of their heart.

Instead of leading us further into the swirl of reactionary speculation, judgement and fear which voicing our own prayers simply out of what we are thinking might well do, its first seven verses ground us in proactive, watchful, blessing prayer.

3. This psalm also has its own particular context in another specific, and flawed period of history, which helps us remember the liberating truth that no earthly leader is perfect or exemplary. And whilst we need some of the psalm’s words to help us pray for our earthly leaders, we can also use them all to pray for a speeding of God’s perfect kingship to be fully restored in the earth.

For there is only one king all other kings should bow down and – as the psalm says – it is the Lord God alone who does marvellous deeds worthy of our praise. It is in him we must trust; whether the leaders we follow gain our disapproval, or our devotion – perhaps especially when they gain our devotion…

Psalm 72 is a welcome gift as it is. It needs no modern re-writing or re-purposing to be applied, razor sharp, and loving-hearted, right into the midst of current political upheavals and crises.

So like we have, can we invite you to receive it as if for the first time today, and to try to read it as a worked example? We’re sure you’ll find it really helpful if you can remember its key first seven verses phrases and approaches to pray over our prime ministers, presidents, monarchs and chancellors… and at a local level too over our MPs, councillors and even church leaders… especially when your thoughts or emotions whirl and wrestle, and you can feel anger or judgement rising…

Why not start praying with it now?

Pray that [insert name] would be endowed with justice and judge the people with righteousness, ensuring particular attention and proactive justice for those who are afflicted or weak.

Ask God to use the resources of [insert nation, area or group] that he has given to all of the people under this leader’s jurisdiction to be released and well used in order to bring everyone stability and plenty.

Spend time praying for [insert name] to have a softened heart in order that those who suffer or are vulnerable – and especially the children of these individuals and groups within society – are cared for and safe.

And ask God to give [insert name] a revelation of who the true enemy is, when they are tempted to live out of fear rather than love, and to defend themselves from those who need as much defending as their people, rather than recognising the devil’s schemes to turn people against each other.

There is an oppressor to crush – the father of lies – so pray for [insert name] to see the truth and oppose all lies, fear and oppression.

This kind of leader – the one you have been praying for to emerge, and blessing the image of God in – this one, you will find you can pray for to have long-lasting authority…. because who doesn’t want a leader who is like rain falling on a mown field?

Timely, serving, safe, refreshing and life-bringing…

… a leader under which the righteous could, and would, truly flourish.

And remember, anything is possible with God. So turn your gaze back to Jesus as the psalm’s closing verses remind us to, and declare:

“Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel,
    who alone does marvelous deeds.
Praise be to his glorious name forever;
    may the whole earth be filled with his glory.
Amen and Amen.”

If you found this blog helpful, you might also want to take a look at this article and written prayer from last week – how does love take hostile ground? The prayer from that blog is also available with the prayer guide from this blog here, in a collection of written prayers: for challenging leaders, and us as we challenge them

how does love take hostile ground?

February 14th, 2017

14 February is the Sanctuary’s birthday – and we love celebrating it by sharing the greatest love we’ve ever known… the reason why we do everything we do. And we’ve seen our simple celebrations change the atmosphere year on year. But this year, there’s been something else on our hearts in the lead up to this date too; and that’s just how much more than ever we need love to be at the centre of all our responses…

We need to love as we are loved.

We need to love like never before.

We need to love whatever comes.

On our knees; with our words; with our whole lives.

We need to watch our hearts.

Yes, us… the ones who get it…

The ones who’ve been captivated by Jesus’ love.

The ones who are trying to spend our lives demonstrating it.

Us… yes us… the ones who get that the last come first in God’s kingdom and that he champions the poor, the broken and the weak.

Us who have absorbed that God hasn’t changed his mind about charging us to welcome the stranger.

Us who are outraged that people could put his name next to any other plan than sharing what we have with whoever is in need. Whoever.

Yes us.

Because our righteous anger and Proverbs 31:8-9 commitment can so quickly become charged with something else.

Love can’t take hostile ground with any hostility present in it.

That isn’t love. That’s a house divided against itself that will surely fall.

If our prayers for changed hearts lead us away from loving those denying others love… then love has not won.

If our words to change minds begin to forget God’s image in those who are dehumanising others… love has not won.

If our actions to transform policies, practices and provision – or our horror at who has power and how they are abusing it – start to categorise someone as irredeemable… love has not won in us.

Instead, love might just be losing the ground it once had in us…

Keep speaking up lovers of justice.

Keep challenging all that exploits the poor and broken and everything that excludes the refugee.

Keep praying for deliverance.

More than ever.

Keep signing petitions, going on marches, tweeting the truth and filling your conversations with stubborn hope and persistent, dogged welcome.

But seek, with Christ’s help to take every thought captive, to not let anyone – anyone at all – be thought about, prayed for, or spoken of without a trace of love… however unloving they seem to be, and however hard it is to love them.

Try always to resist reducing individuals to their surnames or their roles or their political positions and opinions on anything.

Remember who we’re really fighting.

Ask for Jesus’ help constantly.

And, with the power of his Spirit,  together, let’s love all hostile ground into submission until its taken and softened and loving again. Even if we don’t see that day ourselves. Even if in some instances it never comes and always says no to Jesus’ better way.

Please.

Please.

Can we love more recklessly than we can ask or imagine is even possible right now.

Because Love has already won the war. And the best way we can win each battle is by fighting it in love.

Let’s pray…

Lord Jesus –
Love made known to a hostile world –
you stared hatred in the face
while you hung on the cross,
and loved all who destroyed you,
themselves and each other
with reckless, resilient love.

Lord Jesus,
Show us how to still turn over tables –
with passionate, intolerant commotion
about injustice, exploitation and profiteering religion –
but without somehow flipping our hearts
half over and wholly out of love
in the process.

Lord Jesus,
we need daily help
to tell the truth in love
in our conversations,
social media feeds,
campaign actions
and most of all, in our prayers.

Lord Jesus,
fill us with your love
for those who do not love
the valuable and vulnerable.
And this way, let’s take the hostile ground
remaining in their precious, fearful hearts
by challenging them always and only in love.

Ed. If you found this blog helpful, you might also want to take a look at this article and prayer guide – a gift t0 2017, with love from psalm 72 The prayer guide from that blog is also available with the prayer from this blog here, in a collection of written prayers: for challenging leaders, and us as we challenge them

 

 

putting our hearts out there…

February 13th, 2017

At the Sanctuary, 14 February has become our favourite day of the year! Because showering our town with love is a really fun way for us to celebrate and share the greatest love we’ve ever known. Earlier this month, we filled our window with love and over the last few days we’ve been  squirreled away crafting 282 gifts to go out beyond our walls and through the letterboxes of every shop, office and restaurant around us. We can’t wait to bless every team in town. But for now we just have to be patient and wait till nightfall when everywhere is closed….

loved unconditionally

February 7th, 2017

We’re just a week away from one of our very favourite days of the year. Behind the scenes, our pray-ers are busy preparing some very special surprise gifts to bless everyone around us with. Following on from biscuits, chocolates, roses and cards, this year we’ve going with something people can keep… But meanwhile, our window is already blazing out this hope-filled truth to everyone driving or walking past:

The message we want every person to receive – that they are loved unconditionally – is accompanied by the use of adapted and extended song lyrics from a song we’ve found powerful to use in worship ourselves, and to share with others on the streets.

The bridge of Amanda Cook’s beautiful song ‘Pieces’ provides a series of statements describing what God’s love is not like, speaking hope, healing and promise into many damaging situations and relationships…

Whether people feel loved or not; whether they’re in a relationship or not, whether they’re happy with their status or not… we want to make it clear – they are loved. Unconditionally. By a love like no other. A love that’s constant, pure, engaged, present – a love revealed in Jesus.

You can listen to the whole of ‘Pieces’ here.

We’ll post again when we’re ready to share images of our gifts… (ed. here you go – here’s a link to our 2017 gifts.)

What could you do to spread the truth to those around you that they are loved too?

Want some pre-prepared ideas from previous years? Use our blog’s search facility and type in ‘loved’ and/or Valentine or have a look at our art of love made known gallery….

 

dedicating your time

February 1st, 2017

It’s February! But God’s mercies are new every day of 2017… what has he laid in store for you to pray and do with him today? This new written prayer for everyday missionaries is really helpful for dedicating your time on a regular basis…

Lord, I’m leaning in close now,
quiet my thoughts so I can hear you speak
and so I can be present to you;
I want to inhabit these words and thoughts I offer
in spirit and in truth…

I have come to worship you –
and to surrender my whole life
as a missional offering to, and for, you.

I want to learn still more how to move with you.
I want you to set the paces and the places;
to walk me forward with you.
Lead me in prayer again
through each area of my life
that you have led me into so far
and each thing on my heart
that you have set before me
for today
and for the future.

They are yours – I am yours –
let me see what you are doing,
hear what you are saying
and do and speak these things in love…
nothing more,
and nothing less.

Show me the walls to take down,
the shelters to build,
the people to reach out to,
the times to act
and the times to wait, rest or stop.

Show me the old dreams to be faithful to
and those to let go of as past their season;
reveal any new visions you have for me
and guide every step towards their becoming reality
in perfect, surrendered timing…

Show me the people to receive from,
to run with and be spurred on by –
and make me brave enough
to see the unique gifts you are giving me
to pour out your love and life
for all who are still ‘outside’.

Make me so in tune with you –
in my spirit’s core, and through its every outward expression –
that your message rings out clear and loud from me
as a beautiful call to worship that resonates and beckons
others to come close to you too
and to receive your love
and your love-led solution for their need.

It’s all for you, with you, in you, through you –
always, only about you; not me –
my precious, sovereign, faithful Lord.

turning worries and fears into prayer

January 30th, 2017

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the most helpful. In the midst of so much political change, endless  rhetoric and noise, polarised views, civil protest and widely voiced, genuine anxiety about the present and the future… we’re clinging on to Philippians 4:6-7 – and this very practical resource inspired by it – which uses creative ideas to turn worries and fears into prayer

walking with the homeless

January 23rd, 2017

Fresh from our prayer time this morning, we’ve uploaded a brand new resource: Outside prayer stations – Walking with the homeless will help you connect to God’s heart – and yours – for homeless people, the way they are seen and the help they need. It’s a powerful way to stimulate prayer individually, in small groups with the whole church sent out…

We had the idea to try this out when praying through the term a couple of weeks back with the knowledge Homelessness Sunday was on 22 January…

But even after thinking of it, planning it and writing it to use during morning worship today, it had a big impact on us… especially as it’s our first day back after an un-planned few days off with flu, when shelter, warmth and enough money for medicine have all been vital.

We’d really recommend using this resource to you – even after years of working with homelessness organisations, doing street outreach, writing resources and leading prayer in response to the complex stories of people who have experienced losing their home at some stage, there were new insights and challenges here…

So much so that we even added some extra thoughts in after our own prayer time with the resource, to reflect what had struck us to a new degree.

This is a really helpful and powerful stimulus – it charges and changes your heart. And the people who are facing homelessness today need that desperately:

They need more champions, more people who understand, more people who see them with dignity, more people who will pray and help and change others’ hearts too…

spring 2017 calendar

January 11th, 2017

Download and save our Spring term calendar – lots of great prayer dates to put in your diary!

hope whatever comes

January 4th, 2017

Old, new and social media have been full of it the last few days; looking back on 2016 with dismay, and ahead to 2017 with trepidation. But every new year – and every new morning – is a blank canvas waiting to capture more of God’s hope-filled, grace-charged transformation, especially in the bleakest places and situations. It’s all about where we choose to look… how we choose to see, and the picture we choose to paint for others:

So our resolution for 2017 is simply this:

“I will remember this – because of it I will have: hope whatever comes… God’s loving kindnesses never run out; they are new every morning. He is completely reliable.”

It’s not new wisdom. It’s ancient.

Its words are inspired by the words of Jeremiah (in Lamentations 3:22-23) who was intimately and tragically familiar with the worst this world can do, and broken by the mercy of a God who forgives and re-gives again and again and again.

New every morning. Great is his faithfulness.

Whatever the news brings, whatever is coming, we have this hope – new every morning and fresh every day.

Let’s not forget where we’ve been dwelling over Advent and Christ-with-us as we enter 2017.

Let’s not forget to keep looking expectantly for how he is entering each situation, and to keep celebrating the rememberance that his presence is still with us – always with us.

Though we still walk in great darkness, the light has come. We have seen it, and it has changed our perspective forever.

“Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.” (Isaiah 9:7)

Sometimes in our every day, it doesn’t look like light is even keeping up – let alone winning. But dig behind the myths and spin and you will find different stories: stories of extraordinary breakthrough and seismic, global change in education, peace, healthcare, poverty reduction, environmental protection and more…

And million about million testimonies of answered prayer and renewed courage.

Do not doubt it. He has accomplished all he set out to do – it is finished…

…and he is accomplishing all he has said he will do.

He holds all time and space in his hands, withholding final redemption only out of the greatest love and wisdom and insight.

And he will return to bring that final beautiful redemption in his perfect timing – and then we will see how every tear has been lovingly shared, and every loose end lovingly remembered and re-purposed.

So until then?

We need fear no uncertainty, no ending and no new beginning or what it might hold.

Christ behind us in 2016; Christ with us in January 2017; Christ before us in every day that is still to come.

 

what non-sense is this? (a Christmas poem)

December 14th, 2016

We’re delighted to be able to share this Christmas poem with you – available to download as a resource from our seasonal resources page here.

starry-night

What non-sense is this?
God comes to fight all evil’s command
with tiny fists and gurgling cry;
heaven’s glorious standard
veiling himself in dimples,
ready to be held tightly
in vulnerable, poor-girl arms.

What precarious ambush is this?
That dares to conquer darkness
with an obscure birth;
quietly plunging
Light’s most piercing hope
right behind enemy lines
under cover of virgin’s womb.

What terrifying odds are these?
To deliver the rescuing deliverer
gift-wrapped in helplessness;
needing so much protection himself
from weak, fragile civilians
desperate to receive
his rescue themselves.

But this child; this plan –
this battle – begun today
will win the war of eternity;
in thirty three short years
and three long days
as, held up once more,
his finishing cry will defeat death’s very self.

So I need fear no evil,
not through power,
nor even peace on earth;
but because Light himself
left perfection
and loved down
the gates of hell.