A belated happy new year to all my readers, I trust that 2019 will bring peace and happiness in all your endeavours, personal and professional.
I'm aware that I've somewhat neglected my blog recently, there are a number of reasons for this which I'm happy to discuss in private conversation. But I felt I did want to write a post today.
For the last few months I've been very pleased to be on the rota to lead the prayers at the 10.30am service at St James's Church, Bramley near Basingstoke. Particularly, I'm pleased to have the opportunity to take part in the life of the church in a manner which takes me outside of my comfort zone. As an experienced church musician, it's important to me to practise before services when I'm playing but - and excuse me if this sounds arrogant - only a very small number of people would know if I didn't. But I would know and, much more importantly, our Almighty God would know. This is a contribution I am well used making to the life of the church.
But leading the prayers is something I've done far more infrequently over the years, and is a responsibility I take very seriously. Please see my notes for this morning's service here, this is pretty much what I prayed at the time.
Particularly, I like when leading prayers to bring before God a matter of national importance. Now, all my UK readers will be aware that there is one matter above all other which has been dominating the news for some considerable time now, to the point where, if we're not careful, we're going to get bored of it and give up caring. Meanwhile, I'd be interested to the extent to which my non-UK readers have been following news of the Brexit debate and the extent to which it is part of your news bulletins, very difficult to get a sense of perspective right now!
Long standing readers of this blog, and those of you who know me well, will know what my views were at the time of the June 2016 referendum. Two and a half years later, my views are, if anything, stronger now than they were then. But right now for me this is not the issue. The issue is - how should we pray?
It is very much within the spirit of the Christian faith that two people who both love the Lord Jesus Christ and wish to follow Him should have diametrically opposite views on Brexit, and I'm very unhappy with any implication to the contrary. Any differences I might have with fellow Christians are politically, not faith based, and I look to discuss differences in a spirit of respect and understanding, making no difference to our fellowship as Christians. In much the same way, as Christians we may be supporters of any of the main political parties, I was very unhappy with the implication after the last general election that Christians can't be the leader of the Liberal party.
So, how to pray? It is important to me that my own views should not become apparent in my prayers - and discussions with fellow members after the service would indicate that I was successful in this aim. But equally, I don't want my prayers to be so general as to be meaningless.
Well, you can see from these notes how I did pray. Particularly, we can pray for purpose, vision, God's over-ruling, humility, positivity, a concentration on the issues rather than personalities. And it's good to pray for people who acknowledge Jesus Christ to be their saviour who are in public life, that they would conduct themselves in a manner which is honouring to our Almighty God, looking to bring glory to His Name as they discuss these important issues.
Is this copping out? I don't think so. Jonah tried to tell God how to deal with the Ninevites after they repented, and God made it clear to him that it was for Him, God, not Jonah, to decide what to do. Are there implications here for our own discussions with family, friends and colleagues? Yes, I think so. Let's keep to the issues. Let's listen with respect to views different to our own. Let's acknowledge that people with different views to our own may nevertheless be wanting the best for the country before God. Let's try to be positive with a vision for moving forward rather than simply rubbishing views with which we disagree.
Above all, UK readers, let's pray for our country at this time. And to my non-UK readers, very grateful to you for your prayers, if there are particular points for your country for which I can join you in prayer, please let me know. Thank you for reading, I hope to be back again sooner than last time!