Reader Writes, May 2017

I'd like to talk about prayer. Do we really have any right to expect a holy almighty sovereign God to intervene personally in our lives? If we sharply feel the need for that intervention, we probably also feel undeserving and unworthy. It's safe to pray for the poor and for peace in Syria because that is for someone else's benefit. What about our own ills, our heartbreaks, our children, our disappointments, or indeed our joys and gratitude, our work and our welfare? Does God have space to care for us so personally? Is he really concerned with what is on our hearts or keeping us awake in the night? Well the Christian must say emphatically Yes to all of this, and here's why.

It starts with our relationship with God. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray he began with Our Father who art in heaven. This defines our relationship as his adopted children, his heirs, no less. God offers all people that extraordinary privilege of passing from “slavery”, as the apostle Paul puts it, to adoption. When we say Lord, I believe, make me yours, we bring nothing but open hands and a ready heart to receive that gift. We are no longer slaves but heirs with all the privileges of family members. When we at last realize that we have rights as heirs, and that our heavenly Father loves us, we will see why prayer delights God, just as it delights all parents when their children come to them with their cares.

Jesus makes this so clear; directly following his teaching on the Lord's prayer, he tells us to ask, to seek, to knock. “Everyone who asks will receive, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” If our language were Aramaic we would be saying Abba, Father, the most intimate address reserved for a family member. To really push the point home, Jesus declares that if earthly parents know how to give good things to their children, how much more will our heavenly Father supply our needs and give us the Holy Spirit for living our lives fruitfully.

So it's simple, if surprising. If we have said Yes! to God's invitation to believe, we are adopted as heirs, entirely by God's grace rather than a shred of merit on our side. Therefore he wants us to pray about everything in our lives because he cares deeply about us. And he is clearly expecting, like all parents, to make a difference to our futures! Paul is down to earth as usual writing to the Thessalonians: “Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God.” Seeds in the veg patch? Yes, I pray for them, and give thanks. A scan coming up, and I'm worried? Yes, I pray, and let God's will be done; the pilgrim path is sometimes rugged. Let's pray for and bless each other; God loves us to work as a family.

Here's a final seemingly discordant but encouraging thought. Somewhere up on Hergest in the May sun you will hear the cuckoo, that accomplished traveller with the devious habits. As Paul reminds us, all creation groans; the earth itself and we, its very imperfect creatures. Yet, despite this, our Father in heaven cares for us. With God the impossible is possible.

Rob MacCurrach