Prayer Changes Us – From Popularity to Feeding

Readings for this week June 25 – 29
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

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Day 1 – The Temptation to be Relevant

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Matthew 4:1-3

We can so easily be seduced by the ways of the world around us. As much as we might strive to follow God and be faithful to him in each endeavor, the ways and mores of the culture around us can subtly, yet invidiously, influence us, nudging us off our intended path, away from the footsteps of Jesus. One of the ways we are often tempted – and Jesus was tempted with the same thing – is through the lure of being relevant.

But of course, if we are being told we must be relevant, it must only be because at the moment we are not relevant. And, largely, we are not. There is such a clamour of voices around us telling us that we are, as Christians, as followers of Jesus, irrelevant and unnecessary. As time goes on, as society moves and evolves, as new ideas germinate, we seem less and less significant. Our beliefs are regarded as outdated at best, as harmful at worst and the damage we have done, or may do, rules out any possible good we may be able to do. We are fractious. We are biased. We are irrelevant.

And so the temptation is to become relevant. To listen to those voices telling us what we must do and what we must focus on and how we must change and what ideas we must adopt or dismiss. But note: it’s not about being reactionary. It’s not about ignoring the world. It’s not about turning away. It’s about listening – but listening to the right voice, the voice of our God. The voice of the one who knows what truly is relevant and important to his broken, hurting world.

Questions to Consider
In what ways is it tempting to be relevant today? How do we react to this?

Prayer
Lord God, help me love the world but not so that I become beholden to it. Help me love it with your love, a love that sees truly and cares deeply. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – The Irrelevance of Jesus

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Matthew 4:4

Jesus was tempted with the opportunity to be noticed, to be important – to be relevant to what was going on around him. And he could have been. There was nothing stopping him. After all, isn’t Jesus, incarnate Son of the Creator God, the most relevant person of all? Isn’t being relevant to us, to our world and our lives and our predicament, what he was all about? Well, yes, but a world that has fallen away from its Creator, and rebelled against the one who knows its inner workings and needs, is a world that has its own ideas about what it means to be relevant, to be important and noticed. But those ideas aren’t necessarily truly relevant and important. So if we try to be relevant, who are we being relevant for?

We need to give up the desire to be relevant, to be accepted on the world’s terms. We need to be irrelevant, to stand in the world as ourselves, open, vulnerable, and with nothing to offer other than the same love that Jesus came to offer. There is an irrelevance that comes with following Jesus, with listening to his voice above all others and following his path at the expense of all others. As Henri Nouwen says, “The leaders of the future will be those who dare to claim their irrelevance in the contemporary world as a divine vocation that allows them to enter into a deep solidarity with the anguish underlying all the glitter of success, and to bring the light of Jesus there.” (Henri Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, p. 35.)

Questions to Consider
What does irrelevance look like for you? How does Jesus challenge what the world labels as important? What are the consequences for us?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, make me irrelevant. Make me give no heed to the world of significance and importance, but only focus on the hurt and pain of those who are lost and alone. Make my irrelevance count for them. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – The Lure of the Spectacular

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Matthew 4:5-7

These days celebrity sits very near the heart of Western culture. The fame monster lurks in the heart of many people, the desire for stardom and fortune – the cry for recognition. People want their fifteen minutes of fame (though surely no one would want to settle for a mere quarter of an hour?). They want to be famous, they want to be loved. And to do so, they must do outstanding things, spectacular things, things that will gather followers, devotees, ‘likes’.

Jesus was tempted to be spectacular. Many people wanted a sign from him throughout his ministry; undoubtedly there were those who were simply hanging around him for the ‘magic and meal’ – the opportunity to witness spectacular miracles and grab an occasional free feed. The second temptation was a call to do something spectacular, something that would grab people’s attention and garner their applause, their admiration, their devotion. Throwing himself off the temple to be caught by angels would definitely be a fantastic feat, something to grab everyone’s attention.

But Jesus didn’t do it. He didn’t play the hero; refusing to become some sort of divine stunt man, instead he walked in the way of humility and submission to the will of his Father. He didn’t walk the earth in order to prove himself or to show his worth. He walked the earth in order to show his Father’s love, to exhibit a life lived for others, not for his own glory.

Questions to Consider
Why is it so tempting to be spectacular? How do we make our lives appropriately unspectacular?

Prayer
Almighty Father, grant me a life of humble anonymity, loving my neighbours, serving the poor, speaking for the oppressed. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – The Refuge from the Storm

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Isaiah 25:4

There are times when we need rescuing from the storm, when all around us is chaos and confusion, when the clamouring voices become too much. There are times when we need rest and refuge. Rest is something that God understands. The early verses of the book of Genesis tell us that after bringing all things into creation, and proclaiming it good, God himself rested. The prayer of rest is a prayer that we often need in our spectacular, relevant, busy, over-complicated lives. It is a prayer that admits of our need for peace, silence and solitude, and that acknowledges that our ultimate rest is in God, and God alone.

Two tools that help us find these places of rest in God are solitude and silence. To enter a time of solitude is to deliberately shrug off our normal patterns of activity in order to be reminded again that our life and being come from God alone. He is our resting place in the eye of the storm. We remove ourselves from the burdens around us and we seek a space where there is only us and God. Here, we find our true self, our true worth.

And in that space we offer silence. Silence doesn’t just refer to not speaking; it is not that we cease to speak but that we cease to strive, we stop trying to grasp at things around us. We relax our grip on life and we surrender ourselves into the hands of God – the safe, waiting, lightly cupped hands of the God who made us, and knows best how to give us rest and keep us safe.

Questions to Consider
How has God been your refuge lately? What has he been a refuge from? Why?

Prayer
Holy Lord, thank you for the safety and comfort of your arms. Thank you for the shelter of your love and the healing we find in your hands. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Prayer for the Unloving

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Proverbs 31:8-9

We are moulded, each one of us,
in the image of God,
and within our souls there is a fingerprint
none can erase.
We pray for those who have no regard
for anyone but self,
who put no value on human life.
For nations and individuals who abuse and kill.
We are not called to be judge or jury,
but we are called to be agents of change,
and if the butterfly that flaps its wings
should be our attitude to others
then so be it, Lord,
and may the hurricane this generates
somewhere within the world
reach into the hearts and souls of those
for whom we pray, and reveal to them
how precious are those
for whom they have no love,
and how precious are they
who now bring tears to the eyes of God.

©John Birch

Prayer
Loving Lord, show those who do not love how to love, and help us love those who are victims of love’s absence and those for whom love is dead or unknown. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)