Thursday, 31 May 2012

Power hour

As a Christian I find it so encouraging to my faith when we act in obedience to the promptings of His voice and He delivers treasure because of our willingness to do His will.

A great example of this was today in Haywards Heath where myself and my friends Jenny, Gemma and Graham ventured out onto the streets for our weekly 'treasure hunt'. I had to admit to the group that I'd arrived feeling a bit stressed but the moment we prayed that feeling left and we were left with small descriptions of people we should pray for.

Jenny had already come expectant as God had put someone on her heart to pray for a certain situation but this person was unfortunately working behind a coffee shop counter. However, I felt that Jenny should write down the her prayer and give it to the girl for her to read - surely it would have the same effect.

While Jenny and Gemma spoke to their 'treasure' Graham and I set off into town to look for ours. All I had in my head was 'a man with a broken arm' and Graham had 'a woman in a white top and blue trousers with a walking stick'. Within two minutes we saw two ladies matching this description but to be appropriate we didn't approach them and hoped that our moment hadn't passed.

Graham and I looked for our guy with the broken arm and pretty soon he appeared from nowhere. It was amazing. God gives a little clue but makes it blindingly obvious as to what the clue is leading to. Love this about God - mysterious yet undoubtable. We didn't even get close to the guy before Gemma and Jenny literally ran to him and asked if they could pray for him. He said yes and was really interested to listen to what they had to say.

Not long after this Graham and I met a guy who had crutches and we approached him to ask if there was anything we could pray for. He said he'd just come out of hospital after a long illness and would love some prayer. He also said he had a 'sort of belief' and had been searching for the right church. We were able to pray and ask God to bless him and later invited him to our church. It was only after we finished we realised his son had been watching all of this. Praise God.

Then, finally, just as we were leaving town a lady with a white top, blue trousers and a walking stick walked passed. Once again the girls were onto it and asked the lady if they could pray for her. Her response was 'well if your Jesus can help with this pain then yes, I'm totally up for it.' It turned out that this lady recently had hip replacements and was really grateful for Gemma and Jenny being courageous in their faith. Jenny laid hand on her left hip and they both prayed. At this moment, I looked at Graham and said; "this is Kingdom stuff going on here, LOVE IT!"

So all this happened in the space of 45 minutes. Three sick people prayed for and one person blessed, all because God LOVES to use His people to do His will. This is why I love being a Christian. GOD IS LOVE!!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Prayer is rising!

Before I get into this blog about prayer I think it's important to be completely honest; I don't pray nearly as much as I need or should do. Prayer is first and foremost an honour and a privilege. To know that I am even allowed to have access to God's throne-room and tell Him all the stuff I want is pretty mindblowing and I know full well that I take this for granted on a daily basis. I should pray more. I need to pray more. I want to pray more.

My prayer life has in the past and in recent months become a long list of requests - almost a shopping list of things that I'd like to see happen and some of the time I haven't even thought whether these things I ask are part of God's plan for me in the first place. It also becomes a bit of a one way conversation, too. I do ALL the talking and then leave the room before He has had a chance to tell me all that He wants me to hear. Anyone else relate to this?

Also, I have never challenged myself on the issue of my own prayer life, either. It's not often I sit there and analyze how I pray and what I'm getting from it. So why write a blog about prayer when I am clearly not happy with my own prayer life?

This Tuesday (22nd May, 2012) I went to a worship evening and one of the speakers said that sometimes it's good to just pray and thank God for things when everything is going well and to just worship Him for those things. Although this might seem an obvious statement it was like a bullet out of the blue for me. So I asked God to tell me how I should pray and this is the reason for this blog. I feel that God wants to use me to give a bit of insight into what it's like for Him when we come to Him with thanks giving in our hearts (Psalm 100 v 4).

God told me on Tuesday night that He LOVES it when I come to Him with a thankful heart and that I don't actually need to give Him a list of requests because He already knows exactly what I need! He also said that because He is a loving Father, why would He not give me the desires of my heart if they are pleasing to Him in the first place? He said He just loves it when I sit with Him and tell Him how much I love Him.

It then occurred to me - what if when I pray I ONLY thank Him for things past, present and future? In other words a sample prayer would be like this: "Father thank you for saving me, thank you for my family, thank you for my church, thank you for blessing me this morning with new breath, thank you for all you are going to do today and thank you for what you are about to do with my future because I know you have it sorted for me." Before, my prayer would have been 'thank you for today, I ask that you would do this, that and the other'.

So that same Tuesday night I began to pray with this new frame of mind. Firstly it was amazing. I couldn't believe that the more I thanked Him for, the more I had to be thankful for - the list just grew and grew as my heart was instantly filled with excitement at just worshiping my God who's given me everything. I also found that every time my head wanted to ask something of God, my heart was saying 'thank Him for it as if it's already happened'. So not only was I worshiping, I was also praying prophetically. It was something I have not experienced as a Christian in 30 years.

So now it's like there's this whole new side to prayer I never knew existed and it's like pure worship and adoration to the King. I believe that this type of praying isn't just for the quiet times either. Imagine a prayer meeting where everyone who prays offers thanks for things that have been done and are yet to be done? Imagine hearing the praise from the lips of His people - we all have things to thank God for that are unique to us.

But get this. This is not all God said about prayer. He also said I don't allow Him time to talk to me! God said that in the same way I tell Him that I am thankful, He also wants to say to me how much I mean to Him. He says that He wants to tell me every day how much He loves me, in the same way I tell my children how much I love them. God says that this prayer life I lead now needs to be a two way conversation. I am SO up for that!

So. How's your prayer life? When did you last spend time before the Father thanking Him for all the things He's done for you and then allowing Him to tell you how much you mean to Him? Like I said, I thought in my long Christian life I knew how to pray and that I needed to ask Him stuff all the time. But I didn't. Sometimes God just wanted me before Him. He knows my needs - He has them covered. Thank you Lord for loving me in this amazing way!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

'On Earth as it is in Heaven'

In Matthew 6 verses 9 to 13 Jesus told His disciples how they should pray and it went something like this:

Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

For me as a young Christian the Lord's prayer was meaningless and I remember it being said in school assemblies or funerals but I had no idea of its powerful message to us as Christians and also the relevance it has is today's society. Back in the days of Jesus, this kind of prayer would have been revolutionary as many people would not have felt comfortable being so personal with a God so revered and to call Him Father would've seemed extremely personal. However, when you look at it in more detail and consider each part of it, a rise of faith begins to stir and you realise that these simple sentences are actually the key to life and could change the world around us.

This prayer tells us how to address God, accept His awesome Holyness, ask for His Kingdom to be displayed on Earth, ask for His provision, forgive sins and how to love our neighbours, to be pure, to turn from the enemy and declare that the Earth is God's and will be forevermore. This is an incredible prayer and should in no way be brushed under the carpet in the way I used to.

But it's verse 10 in this passage which has been really stirring me, recently; Your Kingdom come, Your Will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. What's Jesus saying here? It seems to me that He is asking us to believe that the very power of God in Heaven can be displayed right here on earth, right now. Have you seen Heaven being displayed on Earth recently? Surely if Jesus is asking us to pray this then we should expect great things from Him, here and now.

In my church in Mid Sussex there seems to be a growing hunger to know our God in a new way. Not just in terms of receiving more blessings, which is all good, but in terms of actually expecting God to move in our meetings in ways we're not used to. People are desperate for God to use His Spirit in a whole new way and our times with Him on Sundays have been nothing short of exceptional.

That's all well and good within the confines of a church building and for those experiencing it but what about the rest of society on the outside? This blessing isn't just for the converted, it can be for everyone who wishes to accept it.

Jesus is very clear in this prayer. He doesn't say; 'in churches as it is in Heaven' - He says; 'on EARTH as it is in Heaven'. In other words, the very glory of Heaven needs to be poured out onto a dry and barren land in order to see His message reach all those who've never heard it before. This is our great commission - to boldly go where no man has... you get the message, right?

Now, two years ago, I wouldn't have labeled myself as an evangelist or someone who would go in search of the lost and tell them they need to sort their lives out as they'll meet a grizzly end if they don't. No. I was very much a 'I'm alright, Jack' kinda Christian and was comfortable with that. However, God doesn't do comfortable Christianity. In fact I would go as far as to say there's no such thing. Being a Christian takes a huge amount of faith and every day is a huge adventure. It has stretched me more than anything else I know. But I also know this: God loves those who don't love Him just as much as He loves those who do. HOW AMAZING IS THAT?

Now I see things a little differently than I did two years ago. If you are from the Mid Sussex area and have walked through a sleepy commuter's town called Haywards Heath on a Thursday lunchtime, you may have seen three people walking about trying to talk to people about the wonder-working power of our Creator God who lives and breathes and is ready to revive and heal people right there on the spot. Yes, I said heal. God is in the healing business in a massive way.

To give a little background, I felt back in November that God was wanting to bring His amazing message of salvation to the streets by using myself and my friend Gemma who also has the same desire to see His Kingdom on Earth. These days there are three of us, myself, Gemma and Jenny, going about the town every Thursday lunchtime praying and asking God to give us descriptions of people God would like us to bless or pray for (this style of evangelism is called Treasure Hunting). It has sometimes been very hard, but other times amazing like today.

Sometimes God is so amazing in His working out of a situation that I'm regularly left speechless by it. Today all I felt God say when I was on my way to pick Gemma up was; "A man in a blue jumper." We didn't know how this was going to happen but God did so we asked Him to show us who it was once we were three together in Haywards Heath. Within seconds we saw a guy on the other side of the road with another guy walking along and one of them was wearing a bright blue jumper. We trusted God that if this was our man then he'd cross over the road with his friend. And he did.

Seizing our opportunity Jenny and I approached our 'blue-jumpered treasure' while Gemma hung back and prayed for us to be used in this situation. I said: "Excuse me, mate, would you say your jumper was blue?" "Yes, I would," he replied with a slightly puzzled look. So I then explained that God had spoken to me earlier about a guy in a blue jumper and seeing as though he was the only person wearing a blue jumper, then it must be him who God was talking about. Looking at me with a smile, he just said; "I suppose I must be." Classic.

So we were then able to give brief testimony's about how amazing God is and give him words that God was speaking right there and then about how much God loved him and wanted the very best for him. All in all we spoke for about 10 minutes and were then able to pray with him. In case you're wondering about his friend, he was receiving some words of encouragement, too, from Gemma. These two guys were totally blown away by the fact that God was actually speaking directly to them and in that moment, Heaven had indeed come to Earth.

Not long after this, Jenny had a very strong feeling that God wanted us to cross the road and that He was going to give us someone else. Not long after we crossed the road, sure enough there was a guy that God immediately pointed out to Jenny and told her to tell Him what God thought of him and that he was so valuable to Him. This man immediately laughed and said that he knew God was on his case because He'd provided him with a new liver about four months ago and kept wondering if someone was keeping him alive! You see, God knows everything about everyone. What does He know about you?

In these two small encounters God met and astounded three people who were just going about their daily business and hopefully their lives will one day belong to the God who so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son Jesus Christ for.

So next time you read or pray out the Lord's Prayer really allow the words to resonate in your spirit and ask God what it is that you can do in order to fulfill His desire to see His Kingdom come on Earth. It may not be by approaching strangers on the street but it could be in other ways like randomly blessing someone with a meal or gift. It is so rewarding and if this blessing culture grows fast enough, it could very well change not just an area of Mid Sussex but a whole country. Now wouldn't that be something?