Thursday, 7 July 2016

Bathed in prayer

Matthew 9:37 - 10:1
"What a huge harvest!" he said to his disciples. "How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!"
The Twelve Harvest Hands
The prayer was no sooner prayed than it was answered. Jesus called twelve of his followers and sent them into the ripe fields. He gave them power to kick out the evil spirits and to tenderly care for the bruised and hurt lives.
I've always been grateful for the Prayer Warriors who have surrounded me with prayer through life - praying for me to explore faith, to find faith, to commit, to discern and then follow a vocation, to have courage, to step up, to remain and to relax in God and to find adventure in following the unpredictable Spirit as she leads in escapades that could never have been planned or anticipated.
Often, when people have been apologetic about not being "actively" involved in ministry, I have offered consolation by assuring them that they might engage in prayer.
And yet, prayer is not a consolation, but the energy in every venture.
Prayer is not an optional extra or an add on but the grounding of faith in action.
Praying for - as well as stepping up to be - harvest hands demands that we are bathed in prayer as surely as we scrub our faces in the morning.
Entering the harvest demands that we pay as much attention to our prayer life as we do to recruiting and energising and building relationships and being "out there doing ministry", and yet it is one of the most difficult routines to cultivate and one of the first we let slip under pressure.
And, while most of us are prepared to admit our weaknesses in some areas of ministry, we rarely admit to how much we struggle with the disciplines of prayer - that seems a step too far in our vulnerability.
In some ways, with the variety of apps available to us (like centering prayer or pray as you go) it should be easier to cultivate a discipline in prayer but the ever increasing demands of ministry lure us away from stillness and contemplation. And we probably scorn those who assert that such contemplation can be found on the morning commute or as we load the dishwasher or as we return from the school run....
As long as we see prayer as "taking time out" we are unlikely to make it a priority in our lives. Would it make a difference if we saw prayer as "putting time in?" It seems that we're more likely to take on something extra than take time away from those activities we see as core in ministry. And while most of us would assert that prayer is core, we still manage to consider it as requiring time that we simply don't have.
Engagement in any ministry and especially ministry on the edge can be isolating and pressured and the very least we can gift to ourselves is doing whatever it takes to find a way to be bathed in prayer - asking others to pray and finding a regular, habitual way to pray ourselves.
How do habits develop? By doing the same thing over and over. Once a habit is established it can be varied and developed but the first step is in forming a habit.
I firmly believe that, often, God acts with us and in spite of us. Our chaotic prayer life will not thwart the Spirit's efforts but grounding and bathing ourselves in prayer may bring us affirmation and consolation, insight and inspiration - that edge that sustains us through the desert, that irrigates and refines hopes and dreams and brings the impetus to kick out the evil spirits and to tenderly care for the bruised and hurt lives.
May our mundane habit of prayer become a power house in the work of the kingdom wherever we are, fuelling the work of the harvest in ways we would never have imagined - for the glory of God.

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