Someone reminded me recently of the familiar hymn, What a Friend We Have in Jesus, and was speaking about how meaningful the words have been for her throughout her life. I remember this hymn very well from growing up in the church, especially the opening words:
What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and grief to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
There are many people who speak of Jesus, comfortably, in this personal way. There are also many others who do not, whose equally deep faith is expressed in other ways. Yet, the truth of God s closeness, in love and in mercy, is indeed a privilege we all share.
During the season of Lent, one of the things we remember is the centrality of prayer, and self-reflection, to the Christian life. As children, we learn to say prayers at bedtime, or at meals as a family. As we grow, we learn the Lord s Prayer, perhaps Psalm 23, as aids to remember how to pray, for what we are thankful, and of God s vision for Creation.
As we grow in faith, our prayer life deepens, widens, to include prayers for others those whom we know, and those whom we don t know whose lives are shaped by tragedy and joy, just as ours are. We come to appreciate that we are connected, not only in a biological or environmental sense, but even more profoundly. We are all children, we are all brothers and sisters, parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents.
We are all, in a word, family. This identity is something which we share with all the people that have ever been, and ever will be.
Paul wrote about this to the churches both in Rome and Corinth. He referred to the then-fledgling Christian Church as members of one body, the Body of Christ. Each person has a gift to offer, he wrote, and each has a gift to receive.
The glue that binds this Body is faith, and the whole Body is brought to mind , when we pray.
This year, we re praying for Steve, who is on sabbatical in Bethlehem as an observer on behalf of the World Council of Churches . And we pray for the people of Israel and Palestine. I m also praying in thanksgiving for the help I ve received from people around worship, and even some administration, while Steve is away.
We pray for our friends in the congregation who travel at this time of year, and for those who are going through significant health and life changes. We ve had a lot of people in and out of hospital recently, and a number who are waiting to be placed in care homes. I know that many of us are visiting them during these times, and we all hold them in our prayers.
This Lent and Easter season, I encourage you to reflect on the role prayer plays in your life. Notice who is on your mind, what you find yourself hoping for, for yourself and for the people in your families. Notice when you struggle with prayer. What do you discover, as you carry everything to God in prayer?
Yours in Christ,