Archive for the ‘Pray with us’ Category

entering our bigger story

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017

During July, we’re spending the majority of our morning worship rhythms setting our own stories – and the Sanctuary’s story – within the bigger story we live in: God’s. One of our principal tools for this, and for inspiring the reflective discussion questions and prayer foci we’re using for it, is the album  Music inspired by the story. It explores key biblical characters’ inner motivations and sacrifices of praise in songs that feel  like both unique-to-the-character dramatic monologues and worship we could all sing.

Each day, we’re taking a different track and responding to it, the wider biblical narrative it brings to life and how it speaks into our individual lives and callings, the people and situations on our heart to pray for and the season of the transition the Sanctuary is currently in as we prepare to leave our current premises next month.

We’re also creating a growing prayer installation with symbols for each story’s message on it…


We’re just two days in and it’s been so powerful, we wanted to invite you in too!

Obviously the main stimulus for this is the music and lyrics which aren’t ours to publish, but if you’d like to join us – and we highly recommend you do – order the CD/mp3 download and use a track a day yourself in prayer… exploring what each part of the larger story speaks into your own and your intercession for others’.

Again we can’t share all the details of what we’re discussing and praying in response online, but you will see some of it if you follow our twitter feed either on twitter itself, or on the feed displayed on our main website home page and this blog’s landing page – you don’t have to be on twitter to access these feeds… just use the scroll bars to move up and down.

Enjoy the story!

breaking the depersonalisation of personalities

Thursday, June 8th, 2017

It is a deeply sad irony that an era that so champions the individual should lead to so much depersonalisation of those it elevates as ‘personalities’. But it is ultimately unsurprising. Because at the root of individualism is not really individuals at all, but rather just one individual… the one with a capital I.

So just as the too-often-forgotten-ones in seven billion lose their names, faces and value in comparison to me and my uniqueness and needsthe overly-remembered-ones in seven billion are often inevitably robbed of their three dimensionality too…

This is deeply out of line with the heart of God towards humanity, and the heart for people we must seek to pray – and live – out of, if we want to love like Jesus. So how do we recognise when it’s happening in us and ask for God’s help to champion something different? Especially when it’s directed towards people we are urged to particularly pray for such as our leaders and politicians?

Today is the 2017 ‘snap’ General Election and, please God, the majority of the UK will be casting their vote for their preferred candidate today following around two months of intense political campaigning and commentating.

People feel strongly and politics is important. It is important to challenge injustice and unwise decisions. Sometimes strong arguments need to be made. Righteous anger even has a place. But…

… when individuals are referred to only by their surnames, reduced only to their political alignments, intentionally and deliberately spectated scrupulously and eagerly for the first sign of any mistake or sign of limitation so they can be lambasted or mocked for it… something is deeply wrong.

When it’s overlooked that there are only twenty four hours in a day and a myriad of demands and friends and family and breathing space all needing to be given by candidates alongside memorising manifestos… something is out of control.

When those considered weak or somehow unqualified are belittled and those considered strong and brilliant are so envied that their tearing down is earnestly desired… a house is truly divided against itself.

When even those professing to love God and others are happy to ridicule and vilify their leaders and potential leaders rather than expressing thanks and prayerful value for the those standing, and focusing on examining their policies and yes – to a point – and in loving respect, consider their characters as to their fitness to lead… we, the church, need to get on our knees and repent.

Surely each of us know by now – and if we don’t perhaps we need to ask some further questions of ourselves – the cost of standing up publicly for what you believe in, especially when it is the minority view; the limitations of our own strength in always living out what we know to be true; the very real struggle of balancing calling with family life; the amount of encouragement and strength you need if you’re really going to step out as a faithful pioneer for the sake of the kingdom…

Surely we – who’ve experienced grace upon grace – can model more mercy and appreciation and value to our leaders.

Surely we who follow a Lord who made a point of going after whoever was marginalised in society – including compromising, colluding tax collectors – know that first in line for the twelve today might well be a banker or a politician as much as someone in desperate financial need.

We’re putting this strongly because it feels urgent, whoever is elected. And because finding another way is so easy – and equally inevitable and infectious – when you spend time in prayer.

It’s a way we’ve been led to on our knees. Bit by bit. Stage by stage we’re starting to not just pray for leaders, but to love them too…

Not just in some amorphous, floaty way, but in a specific, deliberate way which looks for whatever is good and noble in them, seeks to understand how they’ve arrived at the views they have (even if we really struggle with them!), seeks to celebrate and bless them every time we pray or talk about them and looks for ways to engage with them that will build them up in themselves as well as communicate what we think or what we’re hoping they’ll do.

These are the decisions that have helped us – little by little – make progress on this journey of counter-cultural love…

  1. We seek to always make a point of calling everyone by their given name whenever we talk about them. We use their first name on its own in prayer as often as we can, and their full name the rest of the time, rather than just their surnames. (We’ve found looking up what their first names mean has further helped in informing our blessing of them. Engaging with who they are and how God sees them makes immeasurable difference.)
  2. We’re starting to invest in taking our time “getting to know” people we pray for/about as much as possible (especially where we disagree with their stance a lot of the time). Almost all public figures have some biographical information available so we’ve been looking it up and spending a while reading it carefully during prayer, having first asked God to prepare our hearts towards them.
    We’re deliberately look for pieces of information that reveal their distinct personhood, evoke respect or inspire empathy… asking: what talents has God clearly given them? What positive character attributes do they exemplify? What experience do they have which brings richness, or helps us understand why they see the world they way they do? What can we celebrate about them, or identify with from our own experience?
  3. We make sure we try to look at them face to face when we’re praying… as if they were with us in the room receiving prayer ministry! We’ve found that finding honouring photos of them that show them smiling – not caught on camera in an unwitting, unflattering moment – really help. And again, taking time to sit and connect with God and them, and praying for a soft heart towards them, has really helped.
  4. We ask God to help us see them as he sees them, and to give us his heart of love for them… although by this point we rarely don’t have our own sense of love and compassion rising! And we ask God if there’s anything he wants to show us about who they are or how to pray for them.
  5. We consciously try to remember these are real people with real lives. So we remember that people gain or lose jobs at elections, have to balance the sacrifice of standing and demands of the work with family needs, and have the same limitations and vulnerabilities we do to stress, over-work, public criticism, under-valuing, sleeplessness or anything else that feels like it might go with the territory.

Tomorrow, campaigning and election fever will be over. But engagement needs to continue. Whatever the result and however we feel about it, could we see 9 June 2017 as a new beginning in our hearts that transforms the nature of our thoughts, prayers, speech and actions towards and about politicians – and all public personalities – going forward.

Love doesn’t score points or impress others with ruthlessly witty one liners. Love will not tolerate scorn, derision, envy or depersonalisation.

Because love does not seek to diminish, distrust or destroy.

No.

Love looks hard and finds the good.

Love celebrates the unique individual made in God’s image and reflecting his glory.

Love champions and extends grace, forgiveness and mercy.

Love expresses thanks for hearts and acts of public service.

Love sees and understands the cost.

Love mourns and rejoices at the right times.

Love never fails.

 

 

 

 

 

GE2017 – ready-to-send love

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

Last week we shared how prayer and discussion had led us to see the general election as a gift of opportunity – and the plans we were putting in motion to bless every candidate with an encouraging message of love that also spoke up for others who need courage and love. We promised you we’d share as much as we can in case you want to write to your own candidates too, so this blog is to do that:

Over the last week we’ve been crafting these cards, writing a bespoke message to each candidate in response to positive experience and achievements in their bios, continuing to pray for each one by name, and putting together a joint letter to them all to speak up for the most vulnerable in our society – and the kind of nation the UK could be.

We can’t share the personal messages we hand wrote in each YOU ARE LOVED card because they are specific to the individual candidates’ personal details and wouldn’t help you craft yours in any case.

But we found a bespoke way to thank each and every candidate for standing up publically, acknowledge the inevitable personal cost of doing so, assure them of our prayers and affirm everything in their record which showed their skill and/or track record of standing up for vulnerable people and important issues.

And we told them they are loved and valued by every one of us – whether we’re voting for them or not.

We also told them that we’d agonised over including the letter alongside the card because we just wanted to affirm them at such a stressful time, but that this election was too key not to also raise others who we are praying for – and value so deeply – too.

Here is the text we included in the text to that letter, in case you would like to lift it into something similar of your own to your candidates:

“Dear Ros, David, John, Kris, Paul and Matt,

As candidates in this general election – happening at such a key time in our nation’s history – we wanted to write to you as a praying community seeking to champion the value of each and every one in seven billion people alive today. We feel it’s a vital time to stand up for the kind of nation we want to be and to ensure that the most vulnerable in our world, nation and community are prioritised alongside everyone else.

To that end, we’re sharing this brief list of the issues that feel most important to all of us – no matter which party we are each voting for – for our next government (and whoever of you is elected to parliament) to address. We’ve not included much information; we know you will be deluged, but have bracketed at least one expert and trusted organisation’s website after each one so you can find out more if you want:

Global issues

National issues

Thank you so much for your time. God bless you all,

The Sanctuary’s praying community”

#prayforManchester

Thursday, May 25th, 2017


Beauty-from-ashes-bringing Father,
thank you that you always use the worst the world does
to beckon still more to the very best
You are and will always be
and the very brightest kaleidoscope colour
Your kingdom shalom invites us to
receive and build together
as Your Spirit moves among us.
So Lord Jesus, together we pray:
“Thy Kingdom Come,
Thy comforting, restoring,
anchoring will be done
in Manchester as it is in heaven.”
Amen.

GE2017 – a gift of opportunity

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

Those of us who gather to pray together at the Sanctuary come from widely different backgrounds. But there are some characteristics present in us all. Top of that list is having been so captivated by God’s love for us and every one in seven billion, we are now heaven-bent on embodying that love, as well as making it known.

In other words we’re constantly engaged with making a difference to the world – we’re daily praying and acting in response to headlines, issues of injustice and  community events. So when several of our pray-ers responded to a call to pray about the election with what can only be described as a kind of spiritual exhaustion, it was indicative of the wider atmosphere in our nation…

When the forthcoming snap election was announced last month, the news reports contained interviews with a number of people who expressed a sense of being ‘sick’ of politics… one woman was quoted again and again as saying there was ‘too much politics’.

Media, commentators and comedians have carried on this tone. It’s not so much election fever as election malaise. We know we have to engage with this election – we know how important it is; how crucial for determining not just the course of action ahead of our nation with respect to Brexit and other key issues, but perhaps for even defining what kind of nation we want to be.

We know.

And yet…

There is a palpable weariness.

Even among many of the most engaged.

But it’s vital we turn apathy to opportunity.

Everyone in our nation needs prayer to rise above the sense of heaviness, and to be told that there is hope – resilient, abiding, certain hope.

People standing for election need prayer for protection and need to be told that they are loved and appreciated for who they are in the face of an often gruelling ordeal which, for most of them – whether you agree with their policies and ideology or not – comes out of a desire to stand up for something they believe to be for the common good.

And candidates and parties need to be given help in shaping vision – not just lobbied on pet policies – of the kind of country we could be.

There are many ways to do the above. You will be praying and acting into them already.

But, in case it’s helpful for stimulating further prayer, ideas and actions, having wrestled passed that tiredness, and listened for what God was laying on our hearts, here’s how we’re seeking to respond to the opportunity GE2017 presents us to share God’s love and courageously stand for his priorities.

  1. First of all we’re seeking to share hope with everyone we engage in – not vague or politically based hope, but sure and certain Jesus hope. We’re doing this through prayer, in the tone of our conversations and resources and through sharing an art installation in the window of our current premises.
  2. Secondly, we’re praying for our nation and urging everyone in our national and global prayer network to continue to do the same at this crucial time. So we’re investing our time in writing communications like this one, and in creating prayers like Anchor us Lord so that we all remain focused on God’s heart throughout this process.
  3. Thirdly, we’re creating a special card for each of the six local candidates standing in our area and sending them a message of love, appreciation of the costs of standing for public office, and assurance of our prayers. At a time when most of what comes at them is demands, comparisons, polling pressure and criticism, we want to speak en-courage-ment and grace – no matter what their political stance is, or whether any of our pray-ers are likely to vote for them or not.
  4. And lastly, after much wrestling prayer and discussion, despite us feeling that item three is a huge priority for us – to proactive love those who many in our community will not at this time – we’re including a folded up letter in their cards which also speaks up for others we love; most especially the poor and vulnerable.

We’re going to be honest with them, sharing that we agonised about whether to include this because we want the main message they receive from us to be about them, but that we felt this election was too crucial not to speak up for who and what we believe Jesus is leading us to champion.

Because – as we said above – this election is about who we want to be as a nation as we enter Brexit negotiations, redefine law and much more. It is about choosing a character as well as a course.

We’d love you to join us in seeking to speak and embody hope – especially Jesus-rooted hope – at this time where there is such a pervasive sense of drifting and uncertainty.

We’d love you to keep praying with us for the nation at this vital time.

But can we also go one further, and ask you to think about joining us in finding a way to express honest words of appreciation and love to all your candidates? And to consider enclosing something alongside this that speaks up for the voiceless to them with love and respect – something that voices a larger, kingdom-inspired vision for who our nation could be.

You will have your own list of policies you feel are vital, but we are choosing to highlight serving the global poor, protecting vulnerable groups within our own nation and caring for the environment well – and doing this by referring to the specific recommendations made by the following, trusted expert organisations in reference to this election.

  1. Christian Aid
  2. Tearfund
  3. Traidcraft
  4. Age UK
  5. Shelter
  6. The Children’s Society
  7. The Wildlife Trusts
  8. Friends of the Earth

Next week, once we’ve put our own communications to our own candidates together, we’ll share a bit more of the visuals for their card, the tone of the message we write, and the text we’re developing in case you want to use that more directly.

But whatever you do, we’re praying for you – and us –  to keep receiving God’s hope, love, vision and courage to see GE2017 as an opportunity – an opportunity to share his hope, love, vision and courage even wider.

For his sake, his kingdom’s sake, the UK’s sake and the sake of every one in seven billion he so loves. Amen.

 

a prayer for the UK in turbulent times

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

We’ve written and published a special prayer – Anchor us Lord – for the UK in the midst of continuing speculations over how Brexit will happen, and particularly with the added uncertainty of the approaching snap election:

Anchor us Lord,
for we can feel our islands drifting
and many are hopeless,
uncertain or afraid.
We are tossed this way and that
looking all around for some help in the waves…
Europe? America? Other nations? Ourselves?
Which party? Which leader?
Who can save us now?

Anchor us Lord,
for we often choose to float
on the dreams of a misremembered,
misleading nostalgia
that celebrates a once ‘great’ past
when we ‘ruled the seas’ at the cost of others;
rather than pursuing an honest, diligent present
that humbly builds a future on the priceless value
of each and every one in seven billion.

Anchor us Lord,
for we can feel the pull of old scars,
competing alliances
and rival identities
straining our connections,
stretching our unity
and causing us to seek to stand
as a divided people
half-way determined on more division still.

Anchor us Lord,
for you alone can hold us fast and true.
Steady our course
and give us the courage our hearts
– and our nation –
so desperately need
to weather the seas of change
and reclaim the memory of our truly ‘great’ times –
times when we were anchored in hope; trusting in you.

anchor-strong hope

Monday, May 15th, 2017

We’re thrilled to be sharing this visible, joyful representation of the anchor-strong hope we have – especially in the light of so much uncertainty in our nation surrounding Brexit and the upcoming general election, as well as the personal situations of so many individuals who will come past the Sanctuary’s base over the next few days and weeks.


Inspired by Hebrews 6:19, our under-water writing proclaims a rock solid reality to rely on:

“There is a hope so strong it’s an anchor for our restless souls…

… a constant, life-line connection to eternal, immovable Love.

It’s sure and steadfast – it can’t be broken or weakened, even when the seas get rough and the storms throw their very worst at us.

Still then, this anchor-hope holds firm and true.

His name is Jesus.”

As so often at the Sanctuary, what God reveals to us in prayer to share with others is also vital and life-giving truth to cling onto ourselves.

And right now, as the Sanctuary faces a season of transition where we move towards a new base and new ways of working, we’re glad of this reminder too!

It is Jesus who is our fixed point and home… and it is the inner sanctuary of communion with him that is our best and permanent dwelling place.

Our prayer is that many people will find hope as a result of seeing this art installation – and that all of us in the Sanctuary’s praying community (especially locally) will do the same!

 

a prayer for our churches this Easter

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

Following the BBC’s recent survey on Christian’s beliefs surrounding Jesus’ resurrection in the UK, we’re sharing our heart for all of our churches this Holy Week to recognise, encounter and witness to the risen Jesus more fully. We’ve voiced it in this written prayer – please join us in using it to lift the church to Christ:

Lord Jesus,
please more fully enter every church
that claims your name,
and take your place as Risen and Reigning King
in each and every single one.
As Christians everywhere
walk through remembering
the incredible events of Holy Week again,
please Lord Jesus, please,
by the power of your Spirit,
may they truly welcome you
as the one who defeated death forever.

In your mercy, re-write the historical,
transformative truth of who you are
and what you have done
onto all of our hearts with robust, resilient faith.
For the sake of all who
do not yet know you
and need to hear your story
faithfully and accurately told,
and for the honour of your living name Lord Jesus
and all you won for us through your resurrection,
please – grave-conquering, life-winning God,
re-awaken your church to truly believe and follow you.
Amen.

magnificat counterpoint – Easter reprise

Monday, April 10th, 2017

We’ve uploaded a brand new meditation/monolgue to the Easter section on our seasonal resources page – this one imagines Mary at the end of her life, looking back at the whole of her time with Jesus, and after him; how her song – and all God’s other words to and through her have come true; and just what her life of praise and obedience has helped to enable…

What a life God has given me! What a life…

Part of me is still just that young peasant girl from Nazareth. But I…

I… I?

I have also been God’s son’s… mother!

How can I explain the unexplainable?

You see, everything the angel and the prophets said became techni-colour truth.

No word from God ever fails. Not a single sentence can ever come back empty of course.

But I actually watched it happen, everything heard and sung about… I watched it become flesh and deed and fact.

My life has been part of the greatest story ever imagined, lived or told…

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

I did find favour with God.

I did conceive and give birth to a son.

I did call him Jesus.

The Holy Spirit really did overshadow me and the one who was born in, and through and from me was his son – the Son of God himself.

My beautiful, broken-hearted barren cousin did have a child in her old age who changed everything for her. And who – even in the womb – recognised the Lord beginning to grow in me.

Beautiful, 24-7 worshipping old Anna the prophetess did see and speak the truth, when her soft wrinkled smile shone on him knowingly. How could her God-perceiving heart not see with crystal clarity? The One only to be accessed one day a year by the High Priest in the Holy of Holies was being carried into the outer courts in baby-crinkled skin!

Messiah was here – with us! He did come. For us – to redeem Jerusalem; to redeem the whole world.
Simeon did see God’s salvation. He held it in his very arms, gathering it close to him as his over-flowing heart burst out praise there and then in the temple courts. Like me, he cradled the one who had been clothed in the cosmos … the light of the world – revelation for the gentiles of every nation, the cornerstone and crowning glory of the people of Israel!

And as he grew up? Well, Simeon was right. Many in Israel did rise and fall because of Jesus; many hearts did reveal their true thoughts by speaking against God’s living sign.

And a sword did pierce my heart.

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

It was when we were running away from Bethlehem that I first thought those words were coming true. Because Joseph’s dream was right; we did need to flee Herod’s anger and violence. And the terrible thought of what might happen to the little one who was my everything – God’s everything.

But that wasn’t it.

Then later, on a long road home from Jerusalem when I realised my twelve year old boy was missing, a freezing fear of separation sliced through my core again. But that wasn’t it either. Not even a foreshadowing of it.

I thought again I was tasting it when his ministry was in full swing and he was away saying things I didn’t understand, making enemies out of powerful people and putting friends, strangers and outcasts ahead of his own family… right from that first public miracle in Cana when he said his time had not come to the day he would not come out to see me and his brothers away.

But even all of this was not it.

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

I knew that when his time really came.

Oh yes, then I knew. It is coming now… the sword is falling and I do not know if I will bear its devastation…

When he didn’t use his powers at all but surrendered himself to slander, betrayal and capture.

When they chose to free Barabbas – Barabbas? – instead of him.

When Pilate washed his hands.

I could see it starting to fall as if in slow motion, with a kind of dehabiliitating, disbelieving clarity.

When they took my son – God’s son – who had done nothing wrong and everything right … who had loved people and preached truth and justice and healed, rescued and poured out compassion on the outsider, lived perfect righteousness and exposed hypocrisy and exploitation and hard hearts towards God and man.

When they took him and beat him, and hung him on a cross to die a cursed death between two criminals with a crown of thorns rammed on his head and a mocking sign inadvertently proclaiming the truth – “Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum; Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews”.

When he handed me into John’s care.

When the life I had once surrendered my whole imagined life for was taken and brutally killed in front of me.

When I realised that it was not just the angel’s words, or Simeon’s or Anna’s that were coming true, but Isaiah’s too…

For like a sheep he was led to the slaughter – he didn’t even open his mouth to protest. I watched him become a man of sorrows, familiar with everyone’s grief. I witnessed him be despised and rejected – betrayed by one of the very people he had put even above family… cheered on into death by the very people who had cheered him into the city a few days earlier, by people he had healed and delivered.

And the punishment that should have been theirs; the punishment that should have been ours – oh God, even mine – was all put on his one set of shoulders. Oh God, how could my son’s back be broad enough to bear the weight of the whole world’s sin? How could his nail-pierced hands hold the agony of carrying it all? How could the purest Son of God carry every foul thing that separates us from his Father?

And then…

… it fell.

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

The pain of that blade sunk deep, white-hot deep, into my core.

Despair.

Excruciating. Total. Despair.

Separation.

Black-can’t-breathe-horror.

Son severed from mother.

Son severed from Father God.

God severed from his very own self.

Earth breaking.

Created order quaking.

Balance crumbling and spirit shaking.

Dark in day and splitting stone and the sacred temple veil severed in two. Because there was an even deeper, cosmic severing happening that none of us foresaw too.

But I didn’t know that on that black, black afternoon.

Then, I knew only the sword. Only the searing pain. Only the darkness and the tears and the indescribable wrenching, anguished loss of the loveliest life ever lived.

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

Thank God for that first, glorious, Resurrection Sunday!

Praise his mighty name for the restoration of all that is good and holy!

Exalt the Lord our God because the Son rose again with the sunrise!

And he has conquered death and fear and shame!

Thank God Jesus’ death was not his end – that it was not my end – but everyone’s new beginning!

“Oh my soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.”

For I have seen the humblest of all lifted high… on a cross, out of death, and into the heavens!

I have seen the hungry filled with good things… on hillsides and in their hearts and spirits…

I have seen his arm perform mighty deeds and then the most mighty of all – giving his life as a ransom for many.

And I have seen a great mercy extending to every generation in Israel’s lineage and outside of it.

Oh Jesus, son of my heart and Son of the living God. All praise to you my risen and reigning Lord! You lived our life, washed our feet, died our death, paid our dues, stormed our hell to win our freedom, and ascended to glory to make a way for us there again. For all of eternity!

So oh yes, I’m still praising you God that I said yes to you when Gabriel asked me to give up my life for yours.

Because what a life – what life – you have given us all in exchange! Resurrection, eternal, rich and joyful life.

Love for Jew and Gentile, love to least and most
love to distant islands and love to far off coasts.
Love for every generation, stretching out to kingdom come
Love that freely offers redemption to every mother’s son.
***********
And so my hand rests here, remembering the first signs of your miracle growth – and knowing you live in me again now!

And I listen. And I obey. And I pray and I praise. And I gladly, daily, still risk my everything for your costly grace.

For your life means life. Forever.

Yes your life brings life. For everyone.

And despite that sword, people will still always call me blessed.

Because the one who reigns over us all –

chose to need my heartfelt YES!

If you found this resource helpful, you can download it – and similar monologues (for Easter and Christmas) from our seasonal resources page

#PrayForLondon

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

Be near to everyone in London Lord Jesus.
Comfort those who mourn,
reassure the frightened,
and turn every heart to love and peace.