Archive for the ‘Pray with us’ Category

wild worship field guide

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

We’ve just uploaded a brilliant new creative prayer idea to our website; perfect for summer and holidays. Download our wild worship field guide now or read on to find out more about what’s inspired it and how it works…

What’s inspired this resource?

Most of Jesus’ teaching was conducted outside… on hillsides, next to lakes, in boats; he filled it with metaphors, pictures and stories about the landscape around the people he was speaking too.

And Psalm 19:1-4 and Romans 1:20 are just two of the scriptures that re-enforce this reality of creation’s ability to communicate who God is and to help us connect with him and learn more about how to relate to him.

But sometimes we end up losing the richness of the connection between creation and worship… perhaps we enjoy being outside but don’t find it naturally prompts worship; or perhaps, in mostly thinking about scripture’s rich natural metaphors when we are inside buildings, we miss the real depth of revelation they have to offer.

Being based in the Yorkshire Dales, many of the Sanctuary’s team feel like we’ve come to a new understanding of scripture because of living in such close connection to so many metaphors used in it.

And we’ve found our prayer rhythm’s occasional wild worship times have made both creation – and scripture – come alive more; leading us into deeper worship full of wonder and joy.

We’ve also found they have further increased our commitment to creation care and good stewardship from the inside out; the more we love, wonder and connect to God through his creation, the more natural it becomes to take better care of it!

We wanted to share a taste of this approach we’ve found so helpful, so we’ve created this field guide; a fun, interactive way, to explore worshipping in the wild!

How does the field guide work?

You can:

  • use it individually, or as a group or family;
  • use it in the garden, or on walks in the countryside;
  • take it out with you on a specific trip or holiday, or keep it close to hand and tick off things as you discover them over a longer period of time; using each one as a gateway to prayer or praise.

The different elements for you to find outside vary from easy to hard; and of course, in a number of cases will only be visible in some seasons, but they’re all alphabetised like a glossary… so you can choose whether you find things and check the glossary… or use the glossary for inspiration of what to look for.

But however you choose to use the field guide, you’ll find reading the scriptures and reflections while actually looking, touching, hearing or smelling the element of creation they focus on, makes them powerfully memorable… don’t rush each one though, spend time thinking about different meanings, and asking God to show you more.

If you are using it on one specific occasion, you might like to prepare for your outing using the special prayer we’ve included (also copied below)… and/or use some of the reflection questions at the end of the resource, after you’ve come back:

A wild worshipper’s prayer

God of the wild and wonderful –
of arcing skies and miniscule, jewelled wings –
set my worship free to explore beyond these walls.
Re-ignite me, excite me and creatively delight me
as your word comes newly alive
through the colourful witness of your world.
Re-tune my senses, sharpen my mind
and quicken my spirit to your presence
as I look, hear, smell, touch and taste more of your goodness
and lead me out into greater adventures
of discovering you and caring for all you have made.

(If you’re interested in more resources like this, take a look at our God revealed in creation prayer walk)

interceding with the psalms

Friday, May 18th, 2018

We’ve just published a collection of creative ideas for interceding with the Psalms featuring more than 20 fresh and powerful suggestions initially developed through using our daily prayer rhythm’s cycle of psalms…

One of the major stimuli for the Sanctuary’s daily prayer rhythm is the Psalms. We cycle around them, taking a different one each day, and as a result – after several years of doing so repeatedly – are getting to know them better and better; and to receive them more fully as the rich gift to the church that they are.

They are not only helpful in leading us into worship and praise, but also often in inspiring or framing our intercessions. Sometimes it’s the whole Psalm that resonates, sometimes just a part of it – but we’ve found that praying with the Psalms brings a depth and freshness to our intercessions that helps us press into God’s truth for many of the key issues in our world that we’re praying about.

In this new resource – creative ideas for interceding with the Psalms we’ve gathered together a number of examples and ideas from our daily prayer rhythm emails and previously published blogs or resources so you can dip into our growing collection of ideas inspired by the psalms in one place, and at any time.

We’re expecting it to expand in the future, and you will have additional ideas about how to use many of them as it’s designed to model an approach rather than be an exhaustive commentary – but we hope you will find the ideas so far a really helpful start.

(If you find this resource helpful and/or would like to think more about the Psalm’s place in our worship and prayer, you might also like to read this article: www.thesanctuarycentre.org/resources/article-psalms-as-our-worship-school.pdf)

praying for the church and its witness

Friday, May 11th, 2018

We’ve just published a new collection of heart-felt written prayers for the church and its witness, expressing our heart for Christians to grow and flourish in authentic and wholehearted love for God, each other and the world… and to demonstrate this in their witness to him individually and collectively.

They are written in love with a desire to serve and bless, but are charged with longing as they address a number of key areas of our mutual discipleship and mission which we all hunger to see pursued and representing Jesus more fully.

But they are also written as much for ourselves as for the rest of the church… because we need the transformation they seek too.

You’ll find prayers in this collection about lots of vital areas of concern to the Sanctuary such as growing in generosity and authenticity; enlarging our worldviews; loving the global church; developing listening lives; and being braver and free-er in our witness…

If you find some of these prayers helpful, you might be interested in exploring this collection of powerful written prayers and reflections on the theme of church unity too.

Peter speaks up this Easter

Monday, March 19th, 2018

Over the last few years, the Sanctuary has been building up a growing family of meditations written from the imagined ‘inside’ perspectives of key people in the biblical accounts of the Christmas and Easter stories. This latest one gives a voice to Peter as he looks back, particularly focusing on the events surrounding his betrayal of Jesus… (You can explore the full set on our seasonal resources page)

“Have you ever wished you could turn back time?

Not just idly, mind you… not just in passing. But with every sinew of mind and muscle straining to travel back to the past. As if raw longing could somehow re-write your history if you could only regret it hard enough, and you could somehow rub out what you said then, and ink in a new reality to shout out loud what you should have said – what you would say now – if you could just have your time over again.

This time, my time over again, I get it right. This time, my time over again, I speak up for him.

While he’s being led like a lamb to the slaughter, this time I speak up for him.

While he’s living out love incarnate, this time I don’t lie and excuse my way out of the greatest friendship I’ve ever known.

************

Jesus of Nazareth? Yes I know him. I’m proud to know him. I’m still getting over the Son of God associating with the likes of me. Because that’s who he is you know. He’s the Light of the World; the Way, the Truth and the Life; the one we’ve been waiting for that the prophets promised. All these empty centuries and now he’s here! Messiah walking among us… Messiah walking with me!

No, no; you’ve got it wrong. He hasn’t done anything wrong. Nothing at all. He’s the only one among us who hasn’t… the only one who could cast the first stone at someone else. Not that he would, mind you. No. He’s always on at the Pharisees about stopping putting law above love. That’s why they hate him. That’s why there’s all these trumped up charges against him.

Yes absolutely, you’re right.  I was with him in the garden. Yes that was me you saw. You’re right about my accent. I’m from Galilee – that’s where Jesus found me and called me and made something of me and my life. Really quite something out of absolutely nothing mind you. Me and my brother Andrew, well we left our nets by the lakeshore and followed him. And we’ve been following him ever since…

Three years of mercy and miracles and mind-bending parables and teaching. Three years of life turned upside-down and made into life you never knew was possible. Real life; true life; life to the full. Three years of transformation… but you’d need to meet him, to get to know him, to actually follow him yourself, to really understand what I mean.

But no…

That’s not what I said at all.

************

Instead, just like that, I threw those three beautiful years away. In less time than it took a rooster to crow twice, I’d drawn a line through it all. I’d betrayed him completely; denied him repeatedly. With every single syllable that came out of my mouth.

And so in agony I rewind the clock still further; yo the night before. And there we are, sat together with the others for the Passover dinner again. And then, it’s with searing heat then piercing chill that I hear him say again what he said that night. That that’s exactly what I would do – betray him before the cock crowd twice. And I swore I wouldn’t.

But I did. I swore again. Only this time it was to not knowing him, never having known him…

I just keep going over it all over and over again.

And then I let the clock run forward and he does what he does for me still – does what he does for all of us inspite of ourselves.

I denied him to protect myself… and he went and died in place of me.

I only looked out for myself. But he bore the weight of all of us. He bore the weight even of this.

It’s too much. He took it all. And I couldn’t even own my tiny part.

That black Friday got darker and darker till night fell before sunset and the whole created order seemed turned on its head. And in the midst of this cosmic battle, where was brave Peter the Rock then?

Hiding on the sidelines, skulking on the edges, sobbing when I realised what I’d done, but still doing nothing, nothing to speak up and say any different. Why didn’t I run through the streets shouting the truth? Why didn’t I force my way in front of the officials to plead for his life? Why didn’t I go and find the women and stay with him in his last hours at the foot of the cross? Even if it was just to weep, no matter…. why didn’t I go back and stay with him?

I know why. I was ashamed.

************

And yes, time has moved on forwards again and I’ve walked the whole path of it now. I’ve seen resurrection joy. I’ve breakfasted with my risen king. I’ve received his pardon for this, my worst betrayal. I’ve experienced his Spirit coursing through my veins and giving me more courage in a moment than in my whole life put together. I’ve seen his church start to grow and thrive. I’ve done miracles in his name.

But still, I will never forget.

Still, I’d change it all if I could; make him never need to ask me if I truly loved him after all. And still I make this resolve; never again will I not speak up for the voiceless. Never again will I not defend the poor and the vulnerable. Never again will I deny who my Lord is. Never again will I put my comfort or safety before his people and his priorities.

I will speak up. Come what may; I will speak up.”

Download Peter speaks up as a pdf or explore other Easter meditations, prayers and songs on our seasonal resources page

window prayers

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

It’s no surprise that the Sanctuary’s move to a new base means we’ve been getting used to new views through new windows. Some of them look out and back towards spacious and uplifting scenery like this…

But some of the windows look up a B road that’s well travelled by walkers, people out with their dogs and traffic moving back and forth on an important connecting route between local villages and towns.

At least once a day, and usually more often, there’s a few minutes where you need to stand at one of these windows that point up the road to do the washing up. And as you do, there’s another few minutes where your mind, heart and spirit can just quietly connect with God…

Only at these times, rather than being drawn to worship (wonderful this is) or  intercession in response to the headlines (important as this is) or even petition about your own life (pressing as this often feels), it’s hard – especially while the sights in front of you are still so consciously new – not to spend the time simply being present with God to the communities and people around you.

When a bus drives up the road it displays the sign of where it’s going and so, almost without noticing, you find you’re blessing that place you’re beginning to get to know better. And then when one’s going back the other way… well, then you’re heart is drawn to pray for that destination instead.

You never know what’s going to come past that triggers a sense of connection and blessing to a different aspect of life in your local area… the secondary school’s minibus; a delivery or service van for a local business; a tractor or livestock trailer; people you’re getting to know; walkers passing through… each one carries an invitation not just to smile, but to bless and pray for them before you even realise that’s what you’re doing.

Where do your windows at home or work face? And how could you find – or make – a few minutes in your day to look out of one and simply bless your community and the people, businesses, livelihoods and community organisations that you are led to think of as you look watch the view, or the traffic, that is in front of you?

This idea is just a fresh incarnation of an old one, which is helping us pray in a new way for a new place… find more simple ideas like it to pray for your own local area in this resource

growing our favourite resource

Monday, February 19th, 2018

We’ve just updated our favourite resource – the list of God’s characteristics that fuel the back bone of our daily prayer rhythm – with another treasure-trove of new insights discovered as we’ve followed, prayed and studied over the last few months. There is always more of God to search out! And whether you pray with our rhythm or not, this list is bound to spark your imagination and take you deeper into who God is…

taking flight – a sixteen month testimony

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

We love telling stories of what our brilliant God has done in, through and with us. Here’s another amazing one, or at least some of it…

what kind of world?

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

This lament formed as a heart-cry in response to today’s devastating news from Afghanistan, and is dedicated to Save the Children’s workers and their families there, and all around the world, as we all ask God to comfort them, renew their courage, and as we pray blessing on their brave, amazing and loving work.

What kind of a world is it
where those who champion
the small,
infinitely precious
and vulnerable ones,
are attacked and destroyed?

What kind of a world is it
where love in action
is hated,
visciously wounded
and intimidated even to death
by anyone, however twisted a doctrine they serve?

But then, what kind of a world is it
where people live to protect
the small;
calling unknown children
their own precious priority,
infinitely worth risking danger to themselves to save?

And what kind of a world is it
that has life so written and woven
into its being
that hope always wins
as even the darkest acts
spark infinite avalanches of bright, light love in reply?

And what kind of God are you
who breathes
a blue-print invitation
into each of us,
to echo your  saving design,
whilst still bearing
the infinite weight and scars
of every,
single
rescue and loss
on your broad,
broken
shoulders of peace?

our top ten tips for praying with the headlines

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

We’ve just published a brand new practical input resource sharing our top ten tips for praying with the headlines

We don’t have all the answers on how to pray in response to the news and current affairs. But here are some of the invaluable lessons that we have gradually learned as we’ve prayed with the news as a community on a daily basis for many years.

We hope you find them helpful in building your confidence and adding to – or confirming – your own experience. And if you have some extra tips you think we should include alongside them, do let us know!

Ultimately, the best way to grow in prayer is not to read resources about it, but to go on an adventure with God into it.

But we hope that some of the practical insights in this resource will inspire, remove fear around engaging with ‘heavier subjects’ and encourage people to move forward in their own journey of engaging with God’s world in his presence.

This new resource focuses on practical pointers exploring the ‘how’ of praying with the headlines, but you may also be interested in reading this blog article, which explores why praying in this way can be so rewarding – and surprisingly uplifting:  http://journey.thesanctuarycentre.org/2016/04/06/the-surprising-joy-of-interceding-for-the-world/

re-charting the narrow path ahead

Monday, January 8th, 2018

How do you picture it? The narrow path…

Perhaps, like us, you’ve long seen it as set apart from the broad way, separate somehow; maybe, actually above it and leading still further up a steep hill, or winding through twist after turn of hidden corner and next stretch; uneven, difficult ground; deep, shadowy valleys with just enough light and water to keep going; difficult weather… hard circumstances that hone; sacrificial choices that refine; self-denial that prunes and grows more fruit to bless others.

But what if the narrow path isn’t so much like this at all? What if it’s less of a completely different, (by implication, higher and harder) course and more accurately Jesus’ Way through the broad expanse of joys and challenges that everyone – those looking for his way, and those not – will face in this world.

The narrow path image is one created by Jesus himself, and recorded by Matthew in 7:13-14 of his gospel:

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Here (and in John 10:9) Jesus describes himself as ‘the gate’, and elsewhere as ‘the door’ (John 10:7) and ‘the way’ (John 14:6).

There can be no confusion that entering the right way is restoring relationship with God through Christ, that walking the right way is staying in step with him; following him closely, listening to his voice intently, enjoying his company and seeking to obey him no matter what the road ahead holds.

But does his narrow road towards life really look like the description at the start of this reflection?

Does this group of secondary images that much of Christian culture has gradually developed around the original Jesus picture add to, or actually distort, his symbol of discipleship?

Would the God who loved his world so much he came in person to walk his light among the people dwelling in darkness lead his followers along such a separate path?

Could the path that leads to life and the techni-colour purity of the one who created it really, every single time and in every single moment, always lead to the hardest choice or the most difficult terrain?

Just for a moment, let’s imagine re-charting the narrow path ahead. Picture this…

The main way people take is so broad it barely feels like a way – it is more like field upon field stretching out in parallel, and all across it people are moving forward towards the horizon. Some on their own; some in groups.

To the left, some meander or even give up, confused and overwhelmed by their surroundings and unsure of the point of their travels.

To the right, others stride ahead with single-minded, even competitive, purpose having decided their own route ahead, acting as if it is a race to win rather than a destination to reach.

But right through the middle of it all is the thinnest of paths – for the walkers among us, probably something that looks a bit like a sheep path…

It is discernable perhaps only by its flattened grass, gently yellowed from the steps of those who have found it over the centuries and by the light that surrounds each one on it at present.

And if it does have a fence – in parts or in whole – to differentiate it more clearly, every panel of that is a cross-barred access gate rather than a barrier.

It will of course experience the same weather and seasonal fluctuation as the fields around it; it’s walkers are not immune from blisters or sprains or fatigue. Dark nights still fall around them as often as bright dawns rise and shine on them.

But it is the way through because it walks with Life and towards Life.

It is a way that is supernaturally transformational because paying attention to the one who is Life can’t help but make you more alive today than you were yesterday.

It is a way that is beautiful, because it is paced slow enough to notice the rich details of the landscape and people around you.

It is a way that is merciful, because it is visible to those in the fields to the left and right of it, and all who are on it are lovingly conscious of those around them too, ready to stop and encourage others to join them… or to offer first aid, water, or a word of encouragement; eager to chat and laugh with one to the left or come alongside one who is crying on the right.

It is a way that is hopeful because even when its ramblers go through awful weather and reach dread-full obstacles, they remind each other where they are going. And they persevere in going there because they have the very best of company on the way; a Presence and a people to get them through the worst of times.

It is a way that is scandalously grace-filled, for it is always there for everyone to join, at any point in their journey.

It is a way that is contested, opposed and even persecuted because those not on it can easily be persuaded that it is restrictive, laughable or even dangerously misleading. And there are powers that seek to trip up and disable its followers.

But it is the only way that overcomes because it is wise and care-full to avoid potentially treacherous short-cuts or isolated stretches and there is ever present help from Life and his limitless strength and power. And so all those who remain on it to the end reach their long-anticipated destination.

But before they do, while they are still on this narrow path… those who choose to walk through everything with Jesus find – even sometimes by veering a little off to the left or really quite a long way to the right of him – that they learn to tread this almost tight rope course more and more accurately, and that it brings them more and more life and joy on route.

They discover life is full whether they’re looking out from hill-top’s vista or up from valley ditch’s black mire and muck.

They begin to see they are loved more than they could ever love, so they love as much as they can in response. But they love wisely too, for they know they are worth more than many sparrows so they flee any attachment that tells them they are not.

They learn to tread well to the right of hopeful expectancy but resist straying into entitlement.

They start to embrace selflessness without losing their unique self’s flourishing and growth as God purposed.

They have extraordinary faith that their leader will do everything he says he will, but they start to get better at discerning when they are hoping in their own dreams rather than his promises; understand that they aren’t always rightly interpreting his how or when; and most of all, they more and more fully embrace that they are following him not his works.

They become quicker to serve wholeheartedly, give generously and sacrifice astonishingly for others. But they revel too in taking their turn to receive lavish help or gifts. And they cease to be frightened to rest a bit longer than they feel they “should” when they know it is absolutely what they need.

They evolve into reckless forgivers but they are never careless enough with their hearts to not guard them  from the enemy, or any who would partner with him, in unrepentingly or unrelentingly damaging what they know is their well-spring and the greatest treasure they have to give their God.

They seek to be so much more than intentional but to stop just short of striving; to be principled but never so ruled by law that they become their own definition of a Pharisee.

They look to build healthy disciplines, but flee from following these whatever comes, rather than adapting to whatever and wherever the one who inspired them needs them to do – or not do – next.

They are prepared to suffer, and to suffer well as a witness to their first Pioneer’s footsteps (Colossians 1:24), but they do not celebrate or seek privation because they are beginning to understand that whilst Life conquers even the very worst with resurrection, it is not in anyway dependent on death to thrive!

Miraculously, they grow more stunningly obedient and strangely free at the same time. Less themselves and more themselves all at once.

Because this is the Jesus Way.

The way of the one who fasted and went to the cross, but who also laughed and feasted with his friends.

The way of the one who spoke gently saving grace to the adulteress (John 8:1-11) and consistently angry judgement to the exclusionary religious elite.

The way of the one who gave a hillside full of people with good food, leaving abundant leftovers spare, without means testing their need (e.g. Matthew 14:13-21), but who also told the rich young man he must give everything he had to the poor if he truly wanted to follow this way (Matthew 19:16-22).

The way of the one who healed every one of the sick who came to him in one place (Matthew 8:16), but left a village where everyone was looking for him to minister to them, because his calling to preach led him elsewhere (Mark 1:35-39).

The way of the one whose Spirit led Paul to radically tailor  his letters to the different churches he was writing to… for some were straying to the left, and others to the right, and all needed to come back to the narrow path – to re-enter the gate and follow the Jesus Way.

The way of the one who has walked with us every step of the way so far, and whose Spirit is saying again to us today:

“Dear heart, just a little more to the left now; no, that’s a bit too much, come back towards me now because you’ve gone too far… stay close, stay here.

“That’s it, yes that person, but no not that invitation; yes that work, but no, not that one… rest dear heart, rest.

“Yes, you’re right, I am saying that, yes, give that up, sacrifice it for me; but no, not that, dear heart, that is so much more part of how I made you to be and to reach others for me than you realise quite yet. And that, no not that, I love watching how much joy that brings you – enjoy it with me now.

“Well done good and faithful, that’s it, yes, that’s absolutely it… bang on… now just stay with me, don’t keep doing that longer than I’m in it, and don’t start that next thing before I say.

“Just stay close. Just listen… and, yes, almost, but wait for it with me for a while, it’s not quite the perfect time for that yet…”

And then, with joyful, loving laughter in his voice:

“Yes now, absolutely, NOW! Let’s go, go go!”

If you’d like to respond to what you’ve just read…

Here are some questions, one or more of which might be helpful to ask God and yourself as you pray, and in anticipation of your year ahead together:

1. Where might I need to move a little more to the left, or a little more to the right, in my heart-posture, beliefs or actions?

2. What excites me about thinking a bit more about the narrow path ahead of me/ my church/  my organisation?

3. How might holding this slightly different view of the narrow path help me/ us in our personal and missional walk(s) with Jesus in the days, months and years ahead?